Rape Trauma Syndrome


Acute Phase: This phase occurs immediately after the assault. It may last a few days to several weeks. During this stage victims may …

  • Seem agitated or hysterical OR completely calm (a sign they are in shock)
  • Have crying spells and anxiety attacks
  • Have difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and doing simple, everyday tasks
  • Show little emotion, acting numb or stunned
  • Have poor recall of the rape or other memories

Outward Adjustment Phase:  During this phase victims appear to resume their “normal” life. Inside, however, the inner turmoil from the trauma is unresolved and can be manifested by any and/or all of the following behaviors …

  • Continuing or heightened anxiety
  • Sense of helplessness
  • Persistent or worsening fear and/or depression
  • Severe mood swings (e.g. happy to angry in a matter of seconds)
  • Vivid dreams, recurrent nightmares, insomnia
  • Physical ailments (body memories surfacing?)
  • Appetite disturbances (e.g. nausea, vomiting, compulsive eating)
  • Efforts to deny the assault ever took place and/or to minimize its impact
  • Withdrawal from friends and/or family
  • Preoccupation with personal safety
  • Reluctance to leave the house and/or go places which remind the victim of the rape
  • Hesitation/fear about forming new relationships with people that reminds them of their perpetrator (e.g. same gender, body build, coloring, etc.)
  • Sexual problems
  • Disruption of normal everyday routines (e.g. academic problems, high absenteeism at work and school, etc.)
  • Dissociation – appears to be “daydreaming” and doesn’t track or remember well

Resolution Phase:  During this phase the rape is no longer the central focus in victims’ lives.

  • While not forgetting the assault, the pain and memories associated with it are lessening
  • The rape is integrated into identity and life experiences. Becomes part of their narrative.
  • Some behaviors from the Outward Adjustment Phase may surface, but they do so with less frequency and intensity
  • Moves experientially from being a “victim” to a “survivor”