Sexual assault is a major trauma that disrupts survivors’ lives in many ways. Survivors are at heightened risk for a variety of physical health problems — anxiety, depression, difficulty trusting others, PTSD and substance abuse. When sexual assault survivors reach out to others for support and instead receive a negative response, they may experience an additional trauma.
In studies of sexual assault survivors, support has been associated with a variety of positive outcomes. The greater the support survivors reported receiving, the greater the positive effect, lower the negative effect and fewer PTSD symptoms they have.
Survivors need to know they will be listened to and feel that they are accepted and believed by the police. Each survivor who makes a report to the police should have a person with them to strengthen their ability to describe the horrible things done to them. The goal is to have every victim of sexual assault feel they will be supported and believed by the police and that action will be taken to apprehend the perpetrator. All sexual assault survivors should be referred for sexual trauma treatment as soon as possible.