Sexual assault is a traumatic event that may cause people to experience a range of reactions. These reactions are normal responses to trauma, and experiencing reactions to trauma does not mean that someone is “weak” or less of a Marine. Recognizing responses to trauma may help you or someone you know to be prepared to handle them or find the right resources to help. Everyone reacts to trauma differently; someone may experience all, some, or none of these reactions.

Common Reactions to Trauma

  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Detached or unconcerned about others
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Being jumpy and easily startled by a sudden noise
  • Feeling on guard and constantly alert
  • Having disturbing dreams, memories, or flashbacks
  • Having problems at work or school

Physical Reactions

  • Upset stomach, trouble eating
  • Trouble sleeping, exhaustion
  • Pounding heart, rapid breathing, edginess
  • Severe headache, sweating
  • Failing to exercise, eat right, practice safe sex, or take care of your health
  • Excessive eating, smoking, alcohol, and drug use

Emotional Reactions

  • Feeling nervous, helpless, fearful, and/or sad
  • Feeling shock, numb, and/or unable to experience love or joy
  • Avoiding people, places, and things related to the assault
  • Being irritable or displaying outbursts of anger
  • Blaming yourself or taking on a negative view of yourself or the world
  • Not being able to trust others, engaging in conflict, and/or being over-controlling
  • Withdrawing, feeling rejected, or abandoned
  • Experiencing loss of intimacy or feeling detached

Reactions to trauma can last for several days, weeks, or longer. Those who have been impacted by trauma are encouraged to rely on family members, friends, or other trusted people for support. SAPR victim advocates (VA) and sexual assault response coordinators (SARC) are also available to support, including making referrals to a variety of counseling services that can help with moving forward.

Be patient: Recovery Is Hard Work

The path to healing varies from person to person and it's not always a steady process. It is normal to experience ups and downs. If you experienced a sexual assault, be patient, set a pace that's right for you. Remember, it’s ok to ask for help.

To learn more about the SAPR program or the resources available, visit the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response page.