Sexual Violence

How does it affect the victim?

If you are a victim of sexual assault, remember that none of what happened is your fault. Nothing that you may have said or done justifies the fact that you were forced or tricked to get involved sexually with another person. Nobody has the right to force you to a sexual interaction against your will (not even the people you are close to have that right).

The responsibility for what happened is not yours. The only person responsible for what happened to you is the person who assaulted you.


Being a victim of sexual violence is a difficult life experience, which may bring negative consequences: e.g. harming the victim’s physical and emotional well-being and even the way the victim relates to other people.

Sexual violence can cause negative consequences to the victim’s health:
  • injuries caused by the violence or physical strength used to consummate the act;
  • injuries related to sexual violence itself (e.g. pain, bleeding, genital discharge);
  • health problems such as sexually transmitted infections (HIV, genital herpes, Chlamydia);
  • unwanted pregnancies.
Remember that sexual violence is not always physically observed. There are cases in which sexual violence is very subtle (e.g., fondling of genitals) ... leaving no damage or traces.


  violência sexual  

The consequences of sexual violence are particularly felt on an emotional level, leading to various negative emotions:
  • shock (especially when violence is committed by someone you know and trusted);
  • anger;
  • self blame for what happened;
  • feeling worthless;
  • fear of it happening again;
  • afraid of being alone;
  • fear of the offender or that something bad will happen to him/her (especially when the victim and aggressor know one another);
  • ashamed to tell anyone what happened;
  • afraid of  telling someone and not being believed;
  • afraid of being “damaged “or “dirty” forever.



Changes may also occur in the victim's behaviour:

  • have less appetite;
  • sleep poorly (not sleeping or nightmares about what happened);
  • become more aggressive with others and with oneself (e.g., hurting themselves on purpose);
  • have behaviours more typical of younger children (e.g., sleeping with the lights on);
  • withdrawal from friends and family;
  • poor grades;
  • less interest and motivation for studying, going to school and other activities previously enjoyed.


The consequences of these experiences may be different from person to person. There are victims who have no symptoms; others have symptoms that differ from the ones mentioned. These emotional reactions are natural; they are your body’s way of trying to deal with what happened.

However, there are some behavioral reactions which are especially serious as they may put yourself or others at risk of being harmed (such as aggressiveness). If you realize that you are behaving in a way that might damage yourself or others, it is important to get some help.

The consequences depend on:

  • the relationship between victim and offender. When they are close (for example, they are dating), the consequences may be greater because we feel what happened to be a betrayal.
  • the behavior of the person who sexually assaults. If the offender is constantly threatening or intimidating the victim so that she won’t tell anyone what happened, the emotional consequences are even more severe.
  • the physical violence involved. The experiences of sexual violence involving physical violence or strength may be more traumatic.