DCRCC is here to support you.  We believe that healing is possible for every survivor, no matter how recent or long ago the trauma occurred. There is no right or wrong way to feel or heal after being assaulted. The aftermath of sexual assault can be confusing and overwhelming, causing difficult emotional experiences and further crisis.

Resources for survivors of sexual assault.

  • DCRCC Hotline for crisis support, emotional support, information or referrals.
  • If you want a medical or forensic exam, please call DC Victim Helpline to be connected to an advocate.
  • Try our interactive No Straight Path resource that has additional resources to facilitate empowerment, safety and healing.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are normal reactions for a survivor of sexual assault?

Survivors of sexual violence may experience different reactions and emotional changes after an assault, some of which can be very intrusive and disruptive. It is very important to understand that there is no right or wrong way for survivors to respond to sexual violence.  These responses include, but are not limited to:

  • Guilt or self-blame

No one deserves to be raped and it is never your fault – no matter what.

  • Fear
  • Loss of control
  • Avoidance

You may want to avoid anything that reminds you of the assault. Don’t let avoidance prevent you from getting help.

  • Re-experiencing (flashbacks)

Nightmares, flashbacks, or constantly thinking about what happened can disturb your concentration, your sleep, even your appetite.

  • Mood swings

Feelings from a sexual assault can be intense and overwhelming. Most survivors experience a lot of ups and downs in their healing process.

  • Depression
  • Numbness
  • Anxiety
  • Anger

You might feel angry – at the person who hurt you, the world, yourself, and even people you love.  Anger can be an important part of healing.

Any one might experience all or none of the reactions mentioned above. Remember that a lack of visible reactions or physical injuries does not reflect the level of trauma a survivor may be experiencing.

What can therapy do for me?
Sexual assault can change your feelings about yourself and those around you. You may not feel the way you did before the assault—physically, emotionally, socially, or sexually. Counseling can help you work through the normal traumatic responses following an assault and can be an important part in a person’s healing process.The Rape Crisis Center counselors are trained to work with survivors of sexual violence. They provide a safe and compassionate environment where a survivor and their loved ones can find unique ways to heal from the assault.

Is there any situation where the survivor is to blame?
You are not to blame for what happened. There are many different kinds of sexual violence from flashing and voyeurism to sexual assault and rape. Sexual violence is what happens when someone does not consent to a sexual act. Sexual violence can happen to anyone; no one ever deserves or asks for it to happen.

Why did I just freeze when I was assaulted?
What happened is not your fault. People often assume ‘if it happened to me I would fight for my life’. Sometimes these assumptions are unrealistic and unhelpful. These are all natural reactions when you are in situations out of your control. You can’t choose how your body will react when you are in danger. There are also times when the fear or threat of further violence makes it less safe to fight and resist. Being unable to fight someone off does not mean you agreed or make you in any way complicit with what happened.

I don’t know how to cope with what happened. What can I do?
There is no right or wrong way of coping with sexual violence. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it. Surviving can be different for different people and look different at different times. 

I keep having nightmares and remembering what happened, sometimes it’s as if it’s happening again and again. Am I going crazy?
No you are not going crazy. This is a natural reaction to having survived a trauma such as sexual violence. When people survive such a dangerous event or have lived with sexual violence it is natural for the brain to replay what happened. Sometimes this is called ‘flashbacks’ – these can be memories in your mind, nightmares in your dreams, sensations on your body or even smells. The way you experience these will be individual to you and what has happened. They do not mean that you are going mad, but are a way of your mind trying to make sense of what happened. It is very distressing to relive it in this way. But by remembering, your mind is trying to find ways of moving on. It won’t feel like it, but these memories or flashbacks are part of the healing process.

Is healing possible for me?
Yes! Healing from sexual trauma is a series of journeys, leading to the ultimate destination of wholeness. Although we cannot change the past or erase memories, we can release the shame, anger, fear, and reconnect with trust and life.  Healing is difficult but possible and you don’t have to go through it alone. DCRCC is here to guide you through your journey. We are committed to providing accessible and diverse forms of support to survivors and their loved ones. One of those resources can be accessed online, and it is called “No Straight Path”.

What is trauma?
An incident perceived to be life-threatening, that startles, stuns and /or overwhelms us, leaving us altered or disconnected from our bodies. It is an incident that ruptures the body’s stimulus barrier, an individual’s range of tolerance. It is defined not by the event, but by the impact the event has on the individual.Sexual trauma is a general term on a continuum for any act of unwanted, non-consensual activity or contact with another that has an element of sexual gratification.