Any victim of rape regardless of age, gender, or social status suffers from a series of different mental crises. A feeling of worthlessness, disgust, and loneliness creeps into the mind of victims of sexual assault. They can’t get into relationships, let alone think of intimacy. and many of the times can’t feel safe outside and trust others. They often start to blame themselves for what happened. The traumatic event remains ever so strong in their mind for so long that they start to get a series of panic attacks because of it. This leads to the most common mental problem among rape victims, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How PTSD works for rape victims?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a traumatic event. For rape victims, this disorder can cause feelings of fear and stress long after the incident. It is very common for a victim of sexual assault to experience high levels of distress. The trauma can remain strong in their mind for months or even years. This can make one feeling scared, angry, guilty, anxious, and sad. Also because of our social stigma, sexual assault can create a lot of shame and disgust within the victim about oneself. All of these are signs of PTSD.

Those who suffer from PTSD can easily become stressed for the slightest reasons. Different situations can automatically trigger the stress level. Certain sight, smell, dates. Place, people, and even words can make the victim of sexual assault remember the traumatic event. It’s also quite common for nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and memories of the incident to occur in the victim’s mind. The worse thing is victims usually hide the experiences from others because of distrust, shame, or self-blame.

Because of PTSD, a survivor of sexual attacks may never engage in a proper relationship. They can’t talk about certain things and do certain tasks. The feeling of unsafe constantly remains active within their mind which makes their life even more difficult. The constant pressure of this stress can be so severe that one even can choose suicide as a way out.

How to help rape victims who suffer from PTSD?

It is very difficult for the friends and family of a rape victim to handle the PTSD of the victims. But, it is also their utmost duty to do so. If they fail or neglect that duty then the stress level of the victims can rise exponentially. If you have anyone who suffers from it then there are a couple of ways you can help that person.

  • Firstly, learn about PTSD as much as possible
  • Give them space, don’t pressurize the victim to talk
  • Try to talk and do normal stuff, especially things they used to do before
  • Be patient when the victims become stressed, accept their sudden outbursts
  • Try to know the victim’s trigger and take steps to help victims avoid or get over them
  • Help build trust with the victim and make them feel safe
  • Boost their self-worth and self-importance
  • Help them manage their anger
  • Most importantly be a really good listener.

Of course, it can never be really easy and simple to help a PTSD victim of any kind. But, it is necessary to try. Even if you can’t do all of that, at least try to be there for them. Sometimes the victims may act rude or even want you to go away. However, you should remain steadfast and be there for them. That’s the best way you can help.

For the victims themselves, they must accept one thing. That is, they are not at fault. They must reinforce their own identity and not let it get defined by their traumatic experience. When one can do that, one can get over their PTSD. This can be a very complex and lengthy process for many so professional advice from psychologists and psychotherapists is necessary. If that is not possible then the victims should find certain friends or family members with whom they can talk with no fear of judgment.


Author: Partha Protim Barua. He is one of the Content Creators of Beyond Peace. He has completed his ‘Mental Health First Aid training’ from ICMA. If you have any queries or need to connect with him, feel free to send an e-mail to partha@beyond-peacemail.com All discretion will be kept regarding your identity.

Further reading

Helping Someone with PTSD. (n.d.). Retrieved from Help Guide: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/helping-someone-with-ptsd.htm

Recovering from Rape and Sexual Trauma. (n.d.). Retrieved from Help Guide: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/recovering-from-rape-and-sexual-trauma.htm