Helpful Information for Survivors

 

Campus / Community Resources

If you’re the victim of a sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking or bullying crime, there are many places to go for medical help, advice, counseling, filing charges and prevention programming. Please review our Resources webpage for a variety of helpful information and links.

 

Things to Remember

  • It wasn’t your fault.
  • Sexual and physical assaults are acts of violence; you need to allow yourself to cry and be angry.
  • You’ve been through a traumatic experience, so feeling confused and distressed is normal. In fact, survivors of interpersonal violence undergo a variety of emotional reactions.
  • Being assaulted, violated, bullied or stalked may leave you with an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and fear. Learning how to reduce the risk of future victimization may help you feel less vulnerable.
  • Healing is a long-term process. It will help you to talk about your experience and feelings.
  • Seeking help from others is a positive way to deal with the experience, not a sign of weakness.
  • When you’re ready, join a support group so you can see you’re not alone.
  • You can regain some sense of control by making decisions for yourself.
  • Seek out assistance from law enforcement personnel, who can assist you in a number of ways. They can provide referral to community resources and may even offer personal safety/self-defense programs in the community.

 

Common Reactions to Trauma

You may experience some of these reactions more than others or not at all:

  • Fear and anxiety are common, natural responses to danger, and they may remain long after the incident ends. You may become anxious when you encounter anything that reminds you of the experience (places, times of day, smells, noises, situations, etc.) or for no reason at all.
  • Re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks, vivid images or nightmares is common. 
  • Increased arousal (non-sexual) is another common response. This includes feeling jumpy, jittery or shaky; being easily startled; or having trouble concentrating or sleeping. Continuous arousal can lead to impatience and irritability, especially if you’re not getting enough sleep. The arousal reactions are caused by our flight-or-fight response, which is how we protect ourselves from danger. These responses require more energy than usual, so our bodies secrete adrenaline to give us the extra energy we need to survive.
  • Avoidance is a common way of managing trauma-related pain. You may find yourself avoiding painful thoughts and feelings, as well as situations that remind you of the traumatic experience. This can lead to feelings of numbness. Sometimes the painful thoughts or feelings may be so intense that your mind blocks them completely and you may not remember parts of the assault at all.
  • You may be angry with those who are close to you, you may be angry because you often feel irritable, or you may be angry because you feel the world isn’t fair.
  • Trauma often leads to feelings of guilt and shame when victims blame themselves for things they did or didn’t do to survive or when other people blame you for being assaulted.
  • Depression is another common reaction to trauma. Because the incident has been traumatic and emotional, it makes sense to feel sad and to grieve. You may lose interest in people and activities you used to enjoy or future plans you had. You may feel life isn’t worth living, wish you were dead or do something to hurt or kill yourself. If you are having suicidal thoughts, seek medical or psychiatric assistance immediately. Consider contacting the Crime Victims Assistance Center at 607-722-4256.
  • Your self-image may suffer after a trauma. You may tell yourself you’re “weak,” “stupid,” or that you’re a “bad person and deserved it.” 
  • You may see others and the world more negatively, and feel you can’t trust anyone. Relationships with others (even the ones you love most) can become tense.
  • You may find it difficult to feel sexual or have sexual relationships or to become intimate with others.

Many reactions to trauma are connected to one another. For example, a flashback may make you feel out of control, and will therefore produce fear and arousal. Many people think their reactions to trauma mean they’re going crazy or losing it, which can make them even more fearful. Again, as you become aware of the changes you’ve gone through since the incident, and as you process these experiences during counseling, symptoms should become less distressing. 

 

Post Trauma Do’s and Avoid's 

Do get enough rest

Avoid drinking alcohol excessively

Do maintain a good diet and exercise program

Avoid using drugs or alcohol to numb feelings

Do follow a familiar routine

Avoid withdrawing from significant others

Do talk to supportive peers and family

Avoid reducing leisure activities

Do take one thing at a time

Avoid staying away from work

Do attend therapy sessions or support meetings

Avoid increasing caffeine intake

Do spend time with family and friends

Avoid having unrealistic expectations for recovery

Do create a serene place (in your mind or in reality) where you can escape

Avoid looking for easy answers

Do expect the experience to bother you

Avoid taking on new major projects

Do seek professional help if your symptoms persist

Avoid pretending everything is okay

 

Avoid making major changes if you don’t need to

Last Updated: 8/12/14