The Acute Phase:
"Immediately following the
the survivor may experience a very wide range of emotional reactions
which result from being faced with a life-threatening situation.
Shock, dismay, and disbelief are fairly common."
During this phase the survivor is constantly
thinking about the assault. There are often a lot of triggers,
flashbacks and nightmares causing the survivor to experience a wide rage of
emotional reactions . These emotional reactions are most
commonly manifested in one of two ways:
- obvious outward expression
such as crying, shaking, tenseness, restlessness.
Controlled - the survivor appears
to be quite calm and rational about the situation.
Guilt, shame, and self-blame may
be expressed. Anger and
hostility, not just toward the assailant,
but toward the people trying to help her/him, may be present. There
may be a fear of infection or if the survivor is a female a fear
During the first few weeks following
the assault, acute physical symptoms are often experienced
which can include soreness and
bruising on various parts of the body.
There may be gynecological symptoms if the survivor is a female
such as vaginal discharge, burning sensations, pain or itchiness.
Also, the person may experience tension
stomach pains, nausea,
loss of appetite, or disturbed sleep patterns
such as insomnia or
In the period immediately following
the assault, the survivor may have many practical problems to
- informing family and friends
- physical examination
- question of pregnancy, VD, STD or
- fear of retaliation by assailant
or fear of being alone
- decision about pressing charges
- concerns about publicity
In this next phase toward recovery,
the realities of the survivor's life may be the focus while, the
trauma of the assault appears to be less obvious. This is often referred
to as "Denial"
as the survivor is trying to get their life back on track and trying to forget about
fears may become less prominent as the survivor begins again
to involve him/her self in their normal activities. While they may
seem to have forgotten the incident and gone on with their life,
there is usually a high level of denial and
repression of feelings
around the incident.
The survivor will most likely not care to
talk about the assault during this phase. They may begin making
some practical decisions around the place where he/she lives, the
people she/he considers friends, her/his work associates, and activities
he/she chooses to continue or discontinue.
This phase can last a few months, to a few years
or several years, until such a time where the survivor experiences triggers/flashbacks
which reminds them that they haven't "gotten over the assault".
This event is what forces them into the next phase.
Long Term Reorganization:
In this phase the survivor acknowledges
the sexual assault and seeks to reintegrate
the experience into their daily life. It is during this phase that the
survivor is most likely to reach out for help.
Long term adjustment to sexual assault
depends on several factors that come into play around the event.
Factors may include the degree of support experienced by the survivor
from friends and family, previous self-concept of the survivor,
personal strength of the survivor,
treatment by professionals
following the assault, involvement with the criminal justice
system, the survivors prior knowledge of the assault and more.
Some of the difficulties of this
phase are the need to integrate a new view of the self; the survivor
must accept the event realistically. The survivor must resolve
feelings about the assailant and their attitudes toward the gender
or their assailant in general. Often the survivor will really
want to talk at this stage. Many survivors feel they are losing
control because they thought they had dealt with the assault in phase two, and
may think something is wrong with them because these feelings
have come back.
is essential to remember that recovery
time can vary a great deal because of each survivor's personalized
experience of the assault and the events that followed it.***