Some Common Reactions During A Sexual Assault


The experience of being sexually assaulted is shocking. A common response for many survivors is to freeze, feeling unable to think, move or speak. When your life and safety are threatened, your fight or flight reaction is triggered. If you are in a situation where either physically fighting or running is impossible or dangerous, the only option is to flee mentally. If you have been assaulted in the past, this reaction is even more likely. Freezing probably helped to keep you alive.


Another way many survivors describe yielding is “giving in” or pretending to cooperate. Many survivors are able to figure out what the perpetrator wants and try to minimize injuries by seeming to go along with the rapist. There is no shame in deciding that you do not want to die or have serious physical injuries. The fact that you were able to think clearly enough to strategize is impressive in itself.


Some survivors will try to cut a deal during the assault. Bargaining might mean performing one sex act if the perpetrator agrees not to do another or convincing them to wear a condom or having sex in exchange for protection.

Physical Fighting:

There are many ways to fight. Anything you did to survive was fighting back. Some survivors have the reaction of screaming, pushing, kicking, scratching, or hitting. The rapist who is not looking for a physical fight may give up. Many rapists are looking for a fight and will respond even more violently. You are the only one who was there, and your instincts helped protect you. If you did fight off the attacker, you may feel empowered by that. But you may still have many of the feelings listed in the next section. Attempted rape is also sexual assault.

Terror and Disbelief:

Many survivors experience feelings of extreme fear, helplessness, and hopelessness during an assault. A sexual assault is an experience where you have no control over what is happening to you. Terror, which does not go away when the assault is over, is a normal reaction.

Sexual Response:

It is normal to experience some sexual response during an assault that would otherwise signal sexual pleasure. A sexual response makes many survivors feel very ashamed, but does not mean you wanted or liked what was happening to you. Your body is designed to respond to touch. You have nothing to be ashamed of.