Coping, Healing & Recovering From Sexual Assault & Rape

This post is a part of our guide series to support anyone who may have been sexually assaulted or has questions around the topic:

What is Sexual Assault? Definitions & Meanings of Rape
Who Commits Sexual Assault & Why?
What are the Signs of Sexual Assault?
Date Rape & Staying Safe
What Impacts Does Sexual Assault Have on Victims and Their Family/Friends?
Coping, Healing & Recovering From Sexual Assault & Rape
How to Help Someone Who has Been a Victim of Sexual Assault
How to report Sexual Assault (and Who to Report it to)
How is Sexual Assault & Rape Proven in Court?
Punishment and Sentencing for Sexual Assault
How can Sexual Assault and Rape be Prevented?
Sexual Assault Data & Statistics
Sexual Assault Helplines, Support & Further Reading


Healing & Recovery from Rape & Sexual Assault can be challenging for survivors.

This guide assures you are not alone & offers advice on overcoming trauma.

On average, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and the effects of sexual violence are shattering.

Victims of sexual violence such as rape are often subjected to feelings of fear, shame and anxiety.

It is important to remember that the feelings being experienced are normal.

How do I overcome being a rape survivor?

Many people find comfort in speaking to other victims who have been in a similar situation to them self.

In addition to this self help groups can often be a good way of finding people to speak to.

Usually these groups will run in your local community or even online which makes them easily accessible to everyone.

Being a part of a group like this can help victims to make new friends and begin the process of overcoming being a victim of rape by sharing different ways each person copes.

Many people can become afraid of others due to what they have been through.

This can often be members of the opposite sex as their perception of them is altered.

Talking to new people who may have similar reservations due to their experiences can often help victims to overcome this fear, as these people help victims to realise that there are still good and honest people close to them.

Victims may also find that sharing their fears or explaining their experiences can feel like a being weight lifted, as they can talk informally without any worries of saying something wrong.

How long does it take to mentally/emotionally recover from sexual assault?

Healing from rape can be a long process for many people, although each person will heal in their own time.

Victims will often think about how to heal from rape and rebuild.

It is important to know that you should not force the healing process as this can result in putting too much pressure on yourself and it can become overbearing and exhausting.

The first step towards healing from rape is accepting the fact that it was never your fault.

Many rape victims begin to blame themselves for being raped, this often comes from old ideologies that maybe a skirt was too short or a person was too intoxicated.

However, these are never excuses for the perpetrator and it is never the victims own fault.

Once a victim can accept that they were never to blame, the next step is to begin to trust people again.

Each person will find their own ways to begin living life the way they did before, usually this starts with meeting new people and making new friends or even spending more time with old friends.

Although at first the experience may never fully be out of your mind, healing is all about slowly reducing the amount of time you spend thinking about the past.

You cannot control what has already happened, but you can control how you move forward.

What if recovery isn’t possible?

Whilst in some cases recovery may or may not be possible, there are ways to minimise the impact that this has on you.

The trauma can lead to flashbacks, nightmares and feeling like you are unsafe in your environment.

If you have been victim to sexual assault, there are services that can help.

You often may need time to think about what has happened to you, it helps to discuss this with those around you.

Most people feel comfortable talking with family and friends, however it is advised to reach out to your GP and hospitals for help in regards to the feelings you may be going through.

What should I do next?

  • It is important to seek medical attention after the physical incident.
  • This can begin a ‘road to recovery’ in the sense of collecting evidence and seeking justice.
  • Some sexual assault survivors may wish to have a forensic medical examination.
  • This doesn’t have to be used as police evidence instantly, this can be anonymous treatment whilst you are coming to terms and deciding what to do.
  • A health professional will conduct a special examination to look for evidence such as saliva, semen, urine, blood, skin cells or hair, which will be tested for DNA.
  • During the process, you are listened to and spoken with to ensure the professionals give you the help you need, and to make sure you feel comfortable.
  • During this examination, you may decide with the health professional to seek out some psychological report.
  • It is often that you will receive help to do so, through a referral.
  • Bottling feelings or the experience up can make you feel worse; talking about your experience and working through this with others is encouraged.
  • Spending time with friends and family can help to rebuild the sense of safety and comfort – building a supportive network is key when recovering from sexual abuse.
  • You may receive therapy with a psychologist or counselling to help understand what has happened and to learn how to cope with the feelings you may be experiencing.
  • You may be motivated to write down or tell yourself any positives as a daily practice.
  • This could be reminding yourself that you survived and you are alive, you will be OK and with time, you will feel better.
  • Achievements are an important factor; write down any tasks that you have done which make a change to how you are feeling.
  • These are steps on your road to recovery; congratulate yourself for doing menial tasks such as getting out of bed, getting changed, brushing your hair or teeth, or having a shower.
  • The mini milestones are important to record so you can look back and see how far you have come.
  • If you have been a victim of sexual assault, reporting this to the police and seeking justice can often be a determination which can help you to work through what has happened.
  • Once undergoing the medical examination, you can choose to report it to the police and use this evidence to convict the assailant.
  • You may want to wait to report this as you are undecided, it would help to write down details for the police in the event that you do report this.
  • This helps to avoid forgetting what has happened.
  • If deciding to report this to the police is the first step you are taking, talk to family, friends and professionals for support during what may be a hard time.

We understand how difficult it is to experience abuse, whether it is yourself or someone you know, sometimes trying to find help is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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