Women Sexual Assault Centre
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Many survivors of sexual violence experience long term effects, which may affect many aspects of their lives. All of these effects are adaptations to a very abnormal situation (the sexual violence) and many arise out of the survivor’s best attempts to cope with an impossibly stressful situation. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse may develop patterns of coping that are carried into adulthood resulting in behaviors that no longer serve the best interests of the survivor and may, in fact, get in the way of experiencing satisfaction in life. This list may help you to see connections between your experience of sexual violence and some impacts on your life:

Physical Symptoms
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Abdominal or back pain
  • Chronic muscle tension
  • Chronic fatigue
Suicidal Thoughts
  • Suicidal thoughts/urges
  • Suicide attempts
Eating Disorders
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bulimia/anorexia/obesity
Self Injury
  • Accident prone
  • Desire to self mutilate
  • Self mutilation, self hitting, etc.
Substance Abuse
  • Prescribed psychoactive medication
  • Illegal substances and alcohol
Fear and Anxiety
  • Fear of abandonment/isolation
  • Generalized fear of men/women
  • Panic attacks/anxiety attacks
  • Phobias, i.e. agoraphobia
Sleep Pattern Disturbances
  • Restless sleep/insomnia
  • Nightmares/night terrors
  • Sleep paralysis
Dissociative Experiences
  • Memory lapses/blackouts
  • Flashbacks
  • Spacing out
  • Distorted sense of reality
  • Amnesia
Sexual Difficulties
  • Avoidance of sexual intimacy
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sexual compulsiveness/addiction
  • Prostitution
  • Offender behaviour
Emotional Difficulties
  • Depression
  • Guilt/shame/self blame
  • Anger/rages
  • Inappropriate emotional expression
  • Flattened affect (numbing)
  • Crying/sadness/feelings of helplessness
Parenting Problems
  • Over of under protective
  • Over or under controlling
Distorted Beliefs
  • Everything is my fault
  • No one can be trusted
  • I am inherently shameful/bad
Self Esteem
  • Poor self image
  • Poor body image
  • Feelings of worthlessness
Relationship Problems
  • Poor interpersonal boundaries
  • Attraction to abusive partners
  • Lack of assertiveness
  • Neediness and/or distancing
  • Addiction to conflict/drama