Physical and mental symptoms

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What emotional and physical reactions might you experience immediately after a sexual assault?

Sexual assault is a highly stressful and potentially traumatic situation. During the first few days, the body is subjected to high levels of stress and will try to manage and compensate for this by making an enormous effort to adapt.

Therefore, after a sexual assault, a range of physical and emotional reactions of varying intensity may be experienced.

Muscle tension
  • Muscular tension. 
Gastric pain
  • Gastric pain. 
Nauseated woman
  • Nausea. 
Vaginal bleeding woman
  • Bleeding. 
vaginal excretion
  • Vaginal excretion. 
Vaginal itching
  • Stinging or itching sensation in the genital area. 
Loss of appetite
  • Loss of appetite.

As for the most frequent psychic reactions that can be experienced are:

Woman reliving the traumatic episode

In terms of psychological reactions, the most frequent are:

  • Reliving the episode. 
Woman who is afraid and anxious
Woman who has a feeling of unreality
  • A feeling of unreality. 
Woman in a constant alert state
  • Being in a permanent state of alert. 
Woman who avoids places, thoughts, talking about the topic or asking for help
  • Avoiding places, thoughts and talking about the topic; not asking for help from medical services. 
Woman who feels sad, discouraged and angry
  • Sadness, despondency and anger.  
Woman who feels guilt and shame
  • Feelings of guilt and shame. 
Woman who changes her own image
  • Changes in your appearance. 
Woman with difficulties to continue with her daily life (socialize, work, go to school)
  • Difficulties continuing with daily life (relating to others, working, going to school, etc.).
Woman who is afraid to go alone on the street, take the public transport or move away from home
  • Fear of walking down the street alone, taking public transport, being far from home, etc.
Self-injured arm
  • Inappropriate behaviours may occur to calm anxiety, such as self-injury, substance use, etc.

Substantiated information by:

Lluïsa García Esteve
Teresa Echeverría

Published: 22 July 2021
Updated: 20 September 2021

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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