Rape Trauma Syndrome

An acute and long-term emotional reorganization process that occurs as a result of completed or attempted rape, and lasts for months or years after the actual rape has occurred.

Stage 1: Acute/Impact Reaction

Immediately and several days after the rape


Ways of Showing Anger:

  • Expressed style - fear, crying, smiling, restlessness, tenseness
  • Controlled style - feelings hidden by calm, composed attitude

Somatic Reactions:

  • Physical: soreness from physical attack
  • Skeletal muscle tension: inability to sleep, edgy, or jumpy
  • Gastrointestinal irritability: Stomach pains, appetite affected, nausea
  • Genital disturbances: vaginal discharge, and itchy, burning sensation on urination, chronic vaginal infections, rectal bleeding/pain

Emotional Reactions:

  • Fear
  • Shock, disbelief
  • Agitation/anger
  • Shame/self-blame
  • Confusion/bewilderment
  • Extreme sense of guilt

Stage 2: Outward Adjustment Phase

Lasts from weeks to months
Emotional Reactions:
  • Intense fear
  • Anxiety
  • Denial
  • Lost sense of security
Physical Reactions:
  • Burning sensation when urinating and itching or burning discharge from vagina
  • Tension headaches
  • Nausea, caused by anti-pregnancy and/or anti-venereal medicine

Stage 3: Depressed Phase

Lasts days to months
Emotional Reactions:
  • Loss of self-esteem as defenses break down
  • Obsessive memories
  • Uncertain about being able to control life, and environment

Stage 4: Integration and Resolution Phase

Lasts months to years
Emotional Reactions:
  • Lack of trust in men or partners
  • Anxious and depressed when something reminds the victim of the rape

Important Reminder

During each stage of Rape Trauma Syndrome your needs are paramount. You will need support from someone who accepts you, believes you, and can to listen to you. Each stage will require support to make you feel as safe as possible and ensure that you are not isolated and alone.