The Effect SA Has on Mental Health


Experiencing Sexual Assault can have a massive impact on your mental health. Shame and guilt are two of the most prevalent feelings you can experience after, along with the feeling of lack of ownership over your body. Many survivors blame themselves when it is not their fault. 

Due to the trauma surrounding sexual assault, many survivors are at risk when it comes to their mental health.

I am a survivor. I haven’t told many people but have certainly felt the impacts on my mental health. One of them came from not telling anyone for months after. I didn’t understand what it was for a while because I think I wouldn’t let myself acknowledge it. When I did, I kept it to myself. I stopped eating and I felt like if I told people no one would believe me, so I didn’t, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Survivors often feel that what happened was their fault when it wasn’t, feel ashamed and like they don’t own their body anymore. I felt that way too. It’s a horrible feeling - feeling like your own body isn’t yours anymore, that anyone could take control over it at any time which is not the case and I see that now. Your body is yours alone. No one has any right to do anything or touch you if you don’t want them to. 

In a way it was similar to going through the stages of grief, except in this case I hadn’t lost anyone, I had just lost a part of myself.

The feeling that you don’t own your body is one that is immensely hard to get around and hard to cope with, reducing your feeling of self-worth and even increasing your chances of depression and anxiety. The fear that comes with an act of this nature is horrific, leading to panic attacks and severe anxiety and even agoraphobia. 

I developed anxiety and have since suffered through multiple panic attacks. I had never experienced them before and had no idea what was happening at first. Many survivors suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and I do too, even though time has passed; I experience flashbacks regularly and have nightmares about it to this day. 

Flashbacks can be so intense that it makes you relive the events, personally for many of my flashbacks the feelings that I felt during it will come back out of nowhere and it will feel like I am reliving it again, accompanied by the memories of what happened. Truthfully, it's scary, but having the right people around you to make you feel safe during and after are so important. Those closest to me know what to look for and are always so supportive in telling me it's ok and letting me know they are there. 

Another thing is dissociation. This is essentially where your brain recognises that something may be too difficult for you to cope with at that moment, and for lack of a better term, taps you out, meaning you don’t feel the emotion of what’s going on. 

I may not have had any physical wounds after the event, but I certainly had psychological ones.

I didn’t talk to anyone when it happened to me, and it's been years and only now am I going to make an appointment to see someone. If something like this has happened or does happen to you, please talk to someone. The RCC is an amazing organisation who are there to help you, at any time. 

Lastly, know that I believe you. What happened to you was not your fault. You will be okay. 

I believe you.