Feelings & Stages Following a Sexual Assault

These “stages” are established to put your experiences into a logical framework. Most survivors begin with “Shock/Disorganization” and reach “Re-acceptance of Self”; however, all the stages overlap. You may experience them in order or all at once. You may repeat certain phases, or your feelings may flow back and forth. If your experience does not fit within this framework, it does not mean that there is something wrong. All of your emotions should be respected as necessary and important parts of your healing.



  • Disbelief/minimization of the trauma
  • Disorientation (police, hospital and court involvement may prolong this stage)
  • Embarrassment



  • “There wasn’t a rape”
  • “It was just a rape”
  • “No one will understand”
  • “I can’t live with myself”
  • “I can’t handle this”
  • “It will go away if I don’t think about it”
  • “I don’t want to tell anyone”



  • Shame
  • Self-blame:
    • “I asked for it somehow”
    • “I think I’m going crazy”
  • Hopelessness:
    • “I’ll never feel better again”
  •  Feeling that anger is wrong:
    • “He didn’t really mean to hurt me”
  • Self-doubt
    • “I shouldn’t feel this way”
    • “I could have prevented it”
    • “I could have stopped it”
    • “I wish I were dead”




  • “Will I ever be safe again?”
  • “Can people tell I’ve been raped?”
  • “Will I ever get over this?”
  • “Will I ever have a healthy relationship again?”
  • “Will I ever enjoy sex again?”
  • “Will I ever trust again?”
  • Nightmares/night terrors
  • Flashbacks
  • Feelings of vulnerability



  • Anger at rapist
  • Anger at others because they don’t understand
  • Anger at not having control
  • Anger at the system (e.g. police, court, state attorney, etc.)



  • “It wasn’t my fault”
  • “My own efforts kept me alive”
  • “I didn’t choose to be raped.”
  • “I will feel in control of my life again.”
  • “It’s okay to feel angry.”
  • “I can channel my anger into my life: my career, exercise, helping others, etc.”