Effect of Sexual Assault
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Psychological Aspects of Rape

Written by
Dr. Soni Ravi Mukundkumar
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Sep 25, 2013 and last reviewed on Sep 08, 2023   -  4 min read


Rape, also known as sexual abuse or assault, is a monstrous sexual act performed against the will of an individual.

Psychological Aspects of Rape


Rape is any kind of sexual assault that involves sexual intercourse, which is done by one or more persons against a person's will. It involves vaginal, anal, and oral penetration with an organ or an object. Rape is common among both males and females and in homosexual and heterosexual relationships.

Victims of rape bear severe trauma. In addition to psychological harm, rape is associated with physical trauma too. There are always chances of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases and the victim with a vagina can become pregnant.

Psychological consequences that develop in a victim of rape are usually conceptualized under the heading of 'rape trauma syndrome.'

What Is Rape Trauma Syndrome?

Rape trauma syndrome consists of an acute and long-term process of adaptation that occurs after an actual or attempted sexual assault. There are acute consequences and delayed consequences.

Acute Consequences: Feelings like fear, embarrassment, humiliation, shock, anger, self-blame, guilt, shame, and anxiety are common. Fear and anxiety can continue for years. Some victims may have significant physical reactions that may be due to injuries. Others are headaches, sleep disturbance, stomach pains, genital pain, nausea, etc.

  • Anxiety - Bouts of anxiety are one of the immediate effects of rape. The victim of a sexual assault can experience frequent panic attacks, feel nervous, restless, depressed, and uneasy, and tend to avoid situations.

  • Hypersexuality - Victims of sexual assault tend to have an increased urge to have intercourse post-assault.

  • Self-Reproach - Also known as self-blame, is a constant characteristic of a victim of any assault. Self-blame can be because of an action or a characteristic of that individual. Self-blame is generally seen in people who experience a lack of affection, support, acceptance, empathy, and care, and the ones who are down with anger and depression. Self-blame can be categorized under both acute and chronic consequences. In a few people, self-blame can be considered a sign of anxiety, depression, etc.

Cognitive restructuring therapy works well for people having self-doubts. It works by counseling professionals coming up with a logical format of the incident that does not evoke self-blame or guilt in the victim.

Chronic Consequences: The victim usually has frightening and vivid nightmares. These are usually related to their experience during rape. They may also have phobic symptoms. For example, if she was sexually assaulted on a bus, then they become very anxious and uncomfortable while traveling on a bus. If a woman was assaulted by a tall guy, she would avoid interaction with any tall man. The victim starts avoiding everything that reminds her of her sexual assault. They may also develop unknown fear and there may be hyperarousal and excessive anxiety.

Some women cannot adjust to their usual surroundings where everybody knows about their past. So, as a process of reorganization, they may change their mobile number, and job, or move to a new city, and change their home. There may be fear of sex and men. They often feel anxious and panic when outdoors. Recovery from rape trauma is a very long process.

What All Clinical Features Do People Affected by Rape Trauma Syndrome Exhibit?What Are the Consequences of a Rape?

The clinical picture of rape trauma syndrome (RTS) is very similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The basic symptom clusters in post-traumatic stress disorder are three.

  1. Re-experience the traumatic event.

  2. Avoidance of anything that reminds of the event.

  3. Hyper-arousal: Arousal symptoms include being extremely cautious and watchful of the environment, decreased sleep, excessive aggression, irritability, lack of concentration, rage, and depression.

What Are the Consequences of a Rape?

After the experience of sexual trauma, depression is a common consequence. Adult victims of sexual assault also reported current hopelessness and suicidal ideation.

A study suggests, that victims of a sexual assault, are at high risk for heart diseases, high blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia. Researchers suggest exposure to sexual assault should also be screened during the primary, just like how anxiety and depression are screened.

Psychological Effects of Rape Triggered by the Society -

The psychological effects of rape mainly stem from society (sociological impact). Mistreatment from society (people) can be considered as a primary cause for most of the after-effects of a sexual assault.

Breaking even the little courage left in a person who experienced a sexual assault, starts right from the investigation process. Though there are enough laws to protect the privacy of the victim, the damages are inevitable. The medical examination, investigation, and court trials, all of it play a major role in the psychological damages the victim experiences. Most of the time, the victim will be blamed for her/his actions, shamed, and will also face bullying from the millions of people sitting in the comfort of their homes with their gadgets, who do not even know what really happened.

Society's acceptance is hampered in most cases because the people believe in a fair and nice world. Many people still think all these sexual assaults happen only when an individual (victim) gives way to it and it will not happen if an individual (victim) follows all the culture and tradition properly.

What Is the Psychological Impact of Rape in Men?

The psychological impact a man faces post-assault is nowhere less than what female experiences. Studies have shown that men (victims) are experiencing anxiety, depression, self-doubt, anger issues, loss of self-respect, and confusion about their sexual orientation for a longer period of time.

What Is the Association Between Rape and Substance Abuse?

A number of research articles have documented an association between rape and sexual assault and substance abuse. A high incidence of substance abuse was reported among female veterans who presented requesting help for sexual trauma.

"Rape not only affects the victim, but it disrupts every support system that was present for the victim before she was victimized." This includes family, friends, co-workers, society, and so on.

How Does One Recover From Sexual Assault or Rape?

Recovering from a sexual assault depends completely on how far the victim has gathered the strength to fight the monstrous incident. Getting help from a professional will only help, recover from this completely. Cognitive processing therapy will help recover from the past trauma.


The consequences of rape are something only the victim can understand. The maximum a society can offer the victim to get over this trauma is acceptance. The psychological consequences a victim faces post-assault are too much to handle and thus, a professional’s help has to be sought to recover from it completely.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is Rape Culture?

Rape culture is the environment that normalizes sexual violence. This could be due to gender bias, patriarchial ideas, and varying ideas about gender and sex. Any society that promotes the act of rape due to inherent social values is known to have a rape culture.


What Are the Factors That May Lead to Rape?

Rape may be due to various factors such as material abuse, conflicts in relationships, jealousy, and disparities in aspects such as economic and social status. Substance abuse (alcohol or drugs) is another essential factor for rape.


What Are the Scientific Theories of Rape?

Attempts were made to understand the scientific reason behind rape. The three theories behind this include the following, which elaborate on the scientific shreds of evidence behind rape.
- Feminist.
- Social learning.
- Evolutionary theories.
These theories elaborate on the scientific shreds of evidence behind rape.


What Are the Common Behavior of Rape Victims?

The most common behavior of sexual abuse victims is an overwhelming sense of guilt, developing harmful habits such as drinking and smoking, and hiding the facts about the incident from near and dear ones.


What Is the Initial Reaction of Rape Victims?

Rape victims experience extreme shock as an initial reaction. They may experience emotional numbness. They may be stunned or dazed. On the outside, they may act calm or subdued.


What Are the Emotions Felt by Sexual Abuse Victims?

Sexual abuse victims can experience many emotions, such as guilt and shame. Unfortunately, they may be unable to communicate their feelings to near and dear ones. As a result, they may resort to silence or not talking.


What May Be the Immediate Effects of Sexual Abuse?

The immediate effects of sexual abuse may include pain in the private parts, bleeding, bruising, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection, and other bodily changes. It may also have an immediate effect on mental health.


Are All Abusers Narcissists?

Not all abusers may be narcissists. The personality may vary from person to person. A person is usually a combination of many personalities put together. But narcissistic personality may be associated with emotional abuse.


What Are the Common Characteristics of a Narcissistic Personality?

The most common characteristics of a narcissistic personality may include excessive self-importance, arrogance, anger issues, bragging about self, and always wanting to be the center of attention.


How Does Abuse Affect the Mental State of a Person?

Abuse can cause various changes in the brain. Some of these changes can be permanent. In addition, abuse can cause the brain to rewire in specific ways. This can cause various psychological problems in the person.


Is Rape Used as a Mating Strategy?

Rape as a mating strategy is one of the social causes of rape. It is believed that men, under certain conditions, use rape for mating or marry forcefully. This is thought of as one of the social models of rape.


What Percentage of Rape Is Caused by Men?

Men cause about 99 % of the total rapes. Women are victims in 91 % of the cases. Therefore it can be concluded that rape is caused chiefly by men. Women are the victims in most cases.


What Is the Psychology Behind Victim Shaming?

Blaming the victim is a situation wherein the victim is blamed for whatever happened to them. They hold the victim responsible for whatever happened to them. The psychology behind this is that our brain craves predictability.

Last reviewed at:
08 Sep 2023  -  4 min read




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