Recovering From Sexual Assault
Sexual assault can be terrifying and traumatic. After an assault, survivors often feel fearful, confused, guilty, ashamed, or isolated. You do not have to deal with these or any other feelings on your own. There are many concerned people at the University of Chicago and in the community to help you recover and heal (see Resources and Services).
Please remember that the feelings described below do not describe all responses to sexual assault. Each survivor responds differently. You may feel any, all, or none of the feelings described below. Regardless, please remember that many different kinds of help are available to you at any time, on and off campus.
Whether you were assaulted recently or at some time in the past, you may find yourself experiencing any, all, or none of the reactions below:
- Difficulty relating with those close to you
- Changes in your normal sleeping pattern
- Changes in your appetite
- Headaches, stomachaches, or other physical symptoms of stress
- Feelings that may be uncomfortable and/or frightening, including feeling generally "down" or angry at yourself or others (including the rapist)
- Mood swings, including crying more easily
- Difficulty with sexuality
- Difficulty in handling your classes
- Difficulty in concentrating
These and other responses can occur after an assault and may be signals to reach out for help. Some of these responses fall under symptoms of Rape Trauma Syndrome, which is a response to fear felt during the attack. For more information on Rape Trauma Syndrome, please see the Rape Victim Advocates website.
Recovering from Dating/Domestic Violence
Being the victim of violence in an intimate relationship can be very traumatic. You have chosen to love and trust your partner and s/he has betrayed you with violence. At the same time, there are often positive aspects of the relationship that may lead you to still cling to that relationship, believing your abuser loves you and will eventually change. These two sides of a violent relationship may make it very difficult to know if you really love your partner or not, or if you want to stay in the relationship or not. In fact, most survivors of relationship violence report that they do not want the relationship to end, they just want the abuse to stop. You may experience mixed feelings and feel a sense of responsibility. You may have told yourself that if only you could make things better, the violence would stop. It is very hard to accept that you have no control over your partner's behavior, but it is ultimately more healing to recognize that no matter how confused about the situation you are, the fact remains the violence is not your fault.
Recovering from a violent relationship is a process that takes time. You may experience depression, fear, self-blame, feelings of responsibility, difficulty concentrating, and helplessness, as well as the physical injuries associated with violence. Since abusive relationships are about power and control, survivors often have difficulty taking control of their lives back, particularly if the abuser has managed to isolate them socially or economically. There are, however, a number of services and organizations designed to help victims survive the abuse and move on with their lives.
If you are currently, or have been, abused by your partner, or think you might be, it is important that you talk to someone. There are a number of services available on campus for University of Chicago students, staff, and faculty, including Student Counseling Service (SCS) 773-702-9800. These offices are staffed with people who are sensitive to the issues in both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic violence and can help you both to recover from the abusive relationship and to find other services and assistance you might need. (Adapted from UCLA's Putting the Pieces Back Together)
- Resources and services
- While in an abusive relationship
- Immediately after leaving
- Long-term recovery
- Male survivors
- People of color
How to Help a Friend