Stages of Coping with Sexual Violence

Like the stages of grief felt by those who’ve experienced the death of a loved one, sexual assault victim/survivors must also work through the following stages to successfully heal.

Stage 1: Sexual Assault Event

At some point, it becomes clear to the victim/survivor that the physical/psychological violence is inescapable. At least one incident of sexual violence occurs by someone already known or sometimes unknown to the victim/survivor.

Stage 2: Disorientation & Crisis

The victim/survivor may experience shock, helplessness, disbelief, terror, fear, crying, or emotional numbing.

Stage 3: Outward Satisfactory Adjustment

The victim/survivor has dealt with the immediate aftermath of the event/s and tried to function “normally.” The person may forget or repress what happened. This stage is often misinterpreted as a resolution of the crisis.

Stage 4: Reliving & Working Through

The victim/survivor no longer denies the sexual violence or the impact and effects it has had on his/her life. The victim/survivor may experience flashbacks, generalized anxiety, depression, feeling they are going crazy, feel overwhelmed, an experience intrusive memories.

Stage 5: Resolution, Integration, & Healing

The victim/survivor works to integrate the sexual violence into his/her life. He/she comes to accept the sexual assault as a part of their life which has not been forgotten, but no longer controls thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.