Recovering from sexual assault takes time. See how to cope

Recovering from sexual assault takes time. See how to cope

Recovering from sexual assault takes time. It is important to look after yourself and to accept care and support from others. Below are some general coping strategies that you would like to try. 

👉Talk to others about how you are feeling, when you feel ready. Bottling feelings up can make you feel worse.

👉Spend time with friends, family, peers – anyone who can offer you support.

👉Remind yourself that you are alive and you survived the assault. Remind yourself of the little and the big things you achieve every day, such as ‘I read a paper’, ‘I took a journey’.

👉Positive self-talk is important when you are feeling low. Tell yourself: ‘I will be OK – things take time to get better.’ Try to remember what helped you get through other difficult experiences in your life. Do more of what has worked for you in the past, such as going for a walk, listening to music, or watching a comedy.

👉Avoid drugs and alcohol. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs to cope with how you are feeling is likely to make you feel worse in the long run. They might numb your feelings but they will not solve the problem. They can cloud your mind and prevent you from coping well.

👉Try not to avoid reminders of the assault entirely. Avoidance can be helpful in the short term but is unhelpful in the long term.

👉Go back to your usual routines. Get up at the same time each day, get ready for work, and try to do your tasks for the day.

👉Take extra care of yourself each day. After a sexual assault, people sometimes neglect their self-care or take less care of their safety. Take time to do things that involve caring for yourself, such as having a bath, moisturising your skin, brushing your hair, and so on. Also be aware of your surroundings and safety, such as paying attention to traffic when crossing the road.

👉Try to do at least one enjoyable activity each day to build positive experiences.

👉Eat balanced meals each day, but watch out for over-eating. Some people eat more food to comfort themselves and this does not help in the long run.

👉Look after your physical health because this will affect your mental health. If you need to go to the doctor, make an appointment and deal with any health concerns as soon as you can.

👉Keep moving. Any type of exercise – and any amount – will boost your body’s natural feel-good hormones. Exercise is a good way to ease stress and help yourself feel better.

👉Take time to rest and think. But try not to keep thinking about the assault. Use guided meditation (for example, from YouTube) if you find yourself thinking about it a lot.

👉Challenge your difficult emotions when you can. Instead of attacking when feeling angry, walk away from what is causing it. Instead of avoiding something that makes you feel anxious/fearful, approach it. Instead of avoiding activities and people when you feel, try to do something and/or meet others.

👉Get a good night’s sleep. Using a lavender sachet or lavender pillow spray can help you to sleep.

👉Be careful when making major life decisions straight after a sexual assault as you may regret them later.

Relationship and intimacy problems

Relationship problems

People who have been sexually assaulted can find it difficult to trust others. This can make it harder for them to meet new people or have intimate close relationships.

Intimacy problems

It is normal to find it difficult to have sexual relationships after a sexual assault. Sex may remind you of the assault. You may feel bad about yourself and your body. For example, some survivors say they feel dirty or undesirable because of what has happened. Others may react in the opposite way, having sex with a lot of different partners after an assault.


Sexual assault can be committed by men or women, against men or women, no matter what the survivor’s sexuality. Sexual assault has nothing to do with the survivor’s sexuality. For example, a heterosexual man might be sexually assaulted by a homosexual man and vice versa. Sexual assault is a crime of power, not a question of sexuality.

Coping with relationship and intimacy problems

➲ Take your time to become comfortable with the idea of physical intimacy and close relationships.

➲ Remind yourself that what happened to you was not sex, it was assault. Tell yourself you are not dirty, you are a survivor!

 Be careful about risky situations. Make sure you feel safe and comfortable when having sex.

 Talk to your partner about how you are feeling. Let them know that finding sex difficult is a normal reaction to sexual assault. It does not mean that you do not love or care for your partner anymore.

 To start with, try to get sexually close to your partner through other forms of physical contact such as non-sexual touching (for example, cuddling or massage) rather than having sexual intercourse.

 Spend time with your partner doing things you enjoy together such as having a meal out, cooking or watching a particular TV show.

 Remove things in your bedroom that might remind you of the sexual assault.

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