Every sexual assault is different. Every victim is unique. Therefore, there is no “one size fits all” response when an assault occurs.
After an assault, you will likely feel dazed, perhaps in a state of shock, and you will experience a wide range of emotions in a short amount of time.
However that looks for you, it’s okay. It’s normal. Allow yourself to feel those things and work through the trauma of what has just been done to you and know that it’s not weird or wrong. You’re allowed to cry; it’s not a sign of weakness. You’re allowed to laugh; it’s not a sign of apathy or indifference. You’re allowed to feel numb or angry or confused. You’re allowed to want to protect the person who just hurt you. You’re allowed to still love them. You’re allowed to want to escape, to dissociate yourself from the world around you. Why? Because there are no invalid feelings when it comes to your reaction to trauma.
Sexual assault requires a grieving process. Don’t worry if your experience isn’t the textbook definition of grief, if it doesn’t match someone else’s grief journey. You have a soul, not a paper binding. While the traditional five stages of grief are revelatory and helpful, everyone will grieve differently. Don’t worry if you’re still reeling from the shock of it all when people around you start asking, “Aren’t you over it yet?”
At the same time, self-care is key to healing. You may find that coping with what has happened comes in the form of self-harm: cutting, alcohol or drug abuse, etc. You don’t need to feel guilty for that. You are doing what you can to survive. Work out healthier ways to cope but don’t beat yourself up if you revert to self-harm on a bad day or during an especially difficult time. You’ll find suggestions for healthy coping strategies below.