How To Cope With PTSD After A Sexual Assault


Sexual assault and sexual violence isperpetually stuck in our news cycle, as evidenced bythe allegations, Billy Cosby’s outrageous mistrial, or a President who thinks grab her by the p*ssy is normal locker room talk.

But while one out of every six women in the U.S. has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime,not even close to one out of every six news storiescovers the scope of sexual assault and rape in our country.

From victim-blaming to watchingstudent athletes caught in the act going effectuallyunpunished,we don’t take sexual assault seriously enough.

We dismiss thephysical and emotional pain of victimstoo easily, while consistently giving the abusers the benefit of the doubt in court. (Again: Bill f*ckingCosby.)

When you hear PTSD, it’s understandable to let your mind land on the topic of veterans.The United States has a serious problem aiding in the recovery and maintaining the health of those who have served our country, and it is shameful.

That being said, victims of sexual assault can also suffer fromPTSD as well, with the VA dedicating an entire pageto victims of sexual assault on their website.

To coincide with PTSD Awareness Day, Elite Daily spoke with experts for details on how to cope with PTSD after a sexual assault.

You’re not alone.

Have a firm understanding ofsexual assault and its meaning.

Let’s get really clear on what sexual assault : According, the term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.

Simple, right?

Definitely not. As we know, victims often doubt their ability to label an incident as assault, especially when it comes tobeing drunk, or being a victim of someone they know.

Dr. Jason Whiting, researcher of conflict and relationships at Texas Tech University, explains that victims may wonder if they were assaulted if they were going along with some of the touching or contact, but if they said no at any point or protested what was happening, then anything beyond that is assault.

Any utterance of no or to stop still applies, even if under the effects of alcohol.

Trust yourself, and don’t pass it off as something that happens all the time.

Try to accept thatit was not your fault.

In the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, sexual assault or otherwise, it’s common for a victim to ask themselves if there was anything they could have done differently in the situation to prevent it.

While it is normal for these feelings to come up, the problem with this way of thinking is that it means you are blaming yourself for the awful thing that happened to you.

Victims often blame themselves when it is not their fault, says psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman. They can be in a state of shock. They may be frightened, vulnerable and afraid to trust others. They might feel helpless and ashamed.

She added,

If a person was threatened at knife point and robbed, we would probably sympathize and support this person. Yet we often question a victim’s integrity when the crime is a sexual assault. We are asking the wrong question. We need to ask: what right does one person have to sexually assault another?

Sexual assault is not about someone losing control, but instead, is an act of violence.Whatyou wore that day or the precautions you took to be safe do not control the violence in other people.

Nothing about the situation is your fault.

Don’t feel ashamed to seek out professional help.

According to, it’s very normal for survivors of sexual violence to experience feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear.

In some cases, thesymptoms will last longer and be more severe.Dr. Whitling explains:

There are four signs of PTSD. The first is reliving the assault, throughnightmares, orflashbacks. The second is avoidance, which may include staying away from people or places that trigger feelings about the assault. The third is negative feelings, which may include the depression already referred to, or it may involve distrust of people, or of institutions. The fourth is hyper-arousal, which means that you are keyed up, easily startled or anxious.

If you are feeling any of these symptoms, it is important to take care of yourself and talk tosomeone trusted.

Finding a professional to talk to can be a very scary, but important step to take towards recovery. Many people don’t seek help because they feel ashamed or want to avoid thinking about what happened, says Dr. Edelman.

Licensed health professionals are trained to help you, not shame you.If you are concerned you may be suffering from symptoms of PTSD, the best form of treatment is right outside of your circle of family and friends.

Dr. Whitling recommends you talk with a licensed mental health professional to getassessed and treated, connecting withlocal service providersthroughRAINN’s National Sexual Assault Line, or calling the hotlineanonymously at1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Focus on healing yourself with plenty of self-care.

You’ve been through one of the hardest circumstances imaginable. Along with seeking professional help, Dr. Whitling shares additional tips to help in your healing process. First and foremost, you need to take care of

It is good to focus on self-care, which may include exercise, meditation, yoga, or other physical activities, says Dr. Whitling. These not only are more effective than medication over the long term, they are empowering.It is always good to reach out to trusted family and friends. Talk to those who are sympathetic and nonjudgmental.

Dr. Edelman says to believe in your ability to recover. Realize that the recovery process takes time, and be patient with yourself.

If you or someone you know was a victim of sexual assault,know that these are just of theways of cope.

You are a survivor of something awful.Youcan get through this.

Read more:

All The Difference: How RAINN Helps Survivors

Hear from survivors of sexual violence as they share their individual stories, the recovery process and how their journey to getting help from loved ones and resources like the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

If you or someone you love has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. RAINN is here for you with free, confidential 24/7 support. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE or visit, y en espanol: to talk to a trained sexual assault support specialist.

*This video was produced by RAINN under cooperative agreement #2014-XV-BX-K004, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this video are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.