5 steps post-rape

I am currently in the “Anger” stage.

After experiencing sexual assault, there’s such total confusion and disbelief that a person often goes numb; the mind-body system has to shut down. It is also common for a survivor to deny that what happened was rape or to downplay it by perhaps believing “it wasn’t so bad.” A common form of denial is such that the victim accepts that an assault occurred but avoids recognizing that it was of a sexual nature.

The second stage of grieving a sexual assault is anger. A victim’s anger is directed not only at the perpetrator but also many times at herself. Since we live in a society that tends to blame the victim, especially a rape victim who knew her attacker, the victim may become angry at herself for dressing a certain way, putting herself in a certain situation, or even having a drink. Of course, this anger is misplaced and wrong-headed, and there is nothing a victim can do that can make her ‘deserve’ to get raped.

Bargaining follows as the third stage of grieving following a rape. The victim’s objective is to minimize the emotional trauma. Often, the bargaining is of a spiritual nature: The victim will make a deal with a higher power, asking for the pain to go away in return for certain prescribed behavior.

The fourth stage of grieving over rape is often depression. The reality of the sexual assault settles in at this juncture, as does an overriding sense of hopelessness and shame.

Finally, at stage five of the rape-grieving process, the victim gains some sense of acceptance. At this juncture, the victim is able to begin to restore a sense of normality to her life. For many victims, letting go is often unnerving because they have invested so much into simply surviving that they might feel like being a survivor is the only thing that defines them. But at this stage, the victims have incorporated what happened into their lives: It is not the definition of who they are; it is just a part of who they are. They’ll likely think about what happened a lot less and feel more like a stronger version of their “old selves.”


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