Any UW-Madison student is eligible to use Survivor Services and our Women’s Health Clinic
Feelings and Stages
Interpersonal Violence (sexual assault, intimate partner/dating violence) is a traumatic event, and we all handle traumatic events in different ways. Though each person and situation is unique, the following list summarizes the possible range of reactions to interpersonal violence. This list may help you know what is normal to expect.
These "stages" are established to put your experiences into a framework. It is common for survivors/victims to experience some shock and/or denial in the immediate aftermath of their experiences; however, all the stages or phases overlap. You may experience them in some order or all at once. You may repeat certain phases and your feelings will probably flow back and forth. If your experience does not fit within this framework, it does not mean that there is something wrong. All of your emotions should be respected as necessary and important for your healing process.
- Disbelief/Minimization of the trauma
- "It will go away if I don't think about it"
- "I don't want to tell anyone"
- “This won’t bother or affect me”
- “Maybe it wasn’t rape/assault”"
- “It wasn’t that bad”
- No one will understand"
- "I can't live with myself"
- "I can't handle this"
- "I asked for it somehow"
- "I think I'm going crazy"
- "I'll never feel better again"
- Feeling that anger is wrong:
- "They didn't really mean to hurt me"
- "I shouldn't feel this way”
- "I could have prevented it"
- "I could have stopped it"
- "I wish I were dead"
- "Will I ever be safe again?"
- "Can people tell I've been assaulted/raped?"
- "Will I ever get over this?"
- "Will I ever have a healthy relationship again?"
- "Will I ever enjoy sex again?"
- "Will I ever trust again?"
- Nightmares/Night Terrors
- Feelings of vulnerability
- Anger at rapist/abuser
- Anger at others because they don't understand
- Anger at not having control
- Anger at the system i.e. police, court, state attorney, etc.
Re-acceptance of Self
- "It wasn't my fault"
- “My identity is more than my experience”
- “My own efforts kept me alive"
- "I didn’t choose this for myself."
- "I will feel in control of my life again."
- "It's okay to feel angry."
- "I can channel my anger into my life: my career, exercise, helping others, etc."
- Feeling in control of your life
Remember, you are not to blame, even if…
- The abuser/perpetrator was an acquaintance, date, friend, partner, spouse, or family member.
- You have been sexually intimate with the abuser/perpetrator or with others before or after victimization occurred.
- You were drinking or using drugs.
- You froze and did not or could not say “no,” or were unable to fight back physically.