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Rape Trauma

a common reaction to rape or sexual assault. It is a normal human reaction to an unnatural or extreme event. There are three phases to rape trauma:

Acute Phase: occurs instantly after the assault and usually lasts a few days to several weeks. In this phase, you may experience many reactions but they typically fall into three different categories:

  • Expressed: when you are openly emotional
  • Controlled: when you appear to be without emotion, and act as if "everything is fine" and "nothing happened"
  • Shocked disbelief: when you react with a strong sense of disorientation

  • Outward Adjustment Phase: resume what appears to be your "normal" life, but inside you are still suffering from considerable turmoil. This phase has five main coping techniques:
    • Dramatization: you cannot stop talking about the assault and it dominates your life and identity
    • Explanation: you analyze what happened, what you did and what the rapist was thinking/feeling
    • Flight: you try to escape the pain (moving, changing jobs, changing appearance, changing relationships, etc.)
    • Minimization: pretending that everything is fine or convincing yourself that "it could have been worse"
    • Suppression: you refuse to discuss the event and act as if it did not happen

Resolution Phase: the assault is no longer the central focus of your life. You still realize that you will never forget the assault, the pain and negative outcomes lessen over time. The rape or sexual assault happened to you and is a part of you but you have chosen to move on.

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