Physical and Behavioral Impacts and Effects

Impacts and Effects of Sexual Assault

Physical and Behavioural Impacts and Effects of Sexual Assault

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre

Following the sexual assault or abuse, you may have experienced physical or medical concerns which needed to or still need to be addressed. Survivors may have to decide what to do about unwanted pregnancy or have tests and intervention for STIs or injuries resulting from the assault(s).


All physical impacts are incredibly important to address as soon as possible. Other impacts may include amongst others, pelvic pain, gastrointestinal issues, gynecological and pregnancy complications, migraines, frequent headaches and back pain. It is also common for survivors to experience body memories in which physical sensations related to the abuse are triggered or re-experienced.


Since the sexual assault or abuse happened, you may have found your appetite has been effected in the short or longer-term, you may not want to eat as much as before or at all, or you may find yourself binging or ‘comfort eating’ which in the longer-term may affect your physical health and self-esteem. If you find yourself becoming preoccupied with food, binge eating or abusing diet pills, you can ask for help.


Some survivors of sexual assault and abuse choose to ‘self-medicate’ by using drugs, alcohol or other substances to numb the memory of the experiences or feelings of hopelessness or depression. Substance misuse can affect a survivor’s interest in healthy activities and hobbies, may have a detrimental effect on work or school performance and can have longer-term negative health impacts. Alcohol and non-prescription drugs and other substances generally only work temporarily and are not a long-term solution to managing the impacts of trauma.


Withdrawing from alcohol and some other substances which a person’s body has become dependent on, can be dangerous if attempted without adequate medical supervision and support. If you are using drugs, alcohol or other substances to help deal with the impacts of your experience of sexual assault or abuse, please access support for yourself. You can contact CRCC on 02 6247 2525 for counselling and support or referral to an appropriate drug and alcohol counsellor or service.


Since the sexual assault or abuse too place, you may have found that the relationship with your body and how you view yourself has changed. Because they feel so bad about themselves, some survivors find themselves making decisions about their body that may have harmful impacts, such as engaging in unprotected or risky sexual activity or engaging with unhealthy sexual partners.


Often some of the unhealthy decisions are based on very low self-esteem and issues with body image which are common impacts of trauma. If you find yourself engaging in activities which are risky or unhealthy for yourself, you can speak with your counsellor about these, and if you don’t have a counsellor, we encourage you to discuss your concerns with someone you trust who can help, or consider contacting CRCC on 02 6247 2525 or another agency for support.