Emotions & Responses


Understanding your emotions and responses

Disclaimer: This guide is not intended to replace professional support, guidance, advice, or diagnosis.

Trigger warning: A trigger is a word or an event that can cause an action to take place. In this toolkit certain words can be triggering for survivors. Which means that reading those words or sentences can cause a survivor to either feel uncomfortable or anxious and might even take them back to an unpleasant memory. If while reading someone does experience this, it is best to do a quick grounding exercise.

Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Tell yourself that you are safe and you are ok. Use your breathing as an anchor to help bring you to the present moment. Do this as many times as you want to or at regular intervals. You don't need to go through this toolkit by yourself, sit with someone you trust and ask them to go through it with you.

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Sexual violence can lead to physical, psychological, and emotional consequences for a survivor.

People may experience:

Behavioral Changes: agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, or social isolation
Psychological Changes: flashback, fear, severe anxiety, or mistrust
Changes in Mood: loss of interest or pleasure in activities, guilt, or loneliness
Sleep: insomnia or nightmares
Also common: emotional detachment or unwanted thoughts

There are a few common psychological and emotional responses to the trauma or shock, such as fear, anger, or anxiety. While reading this section, it is important to note that every survivor responds in a unique way. It is normal to feel confused about your thoughts and feelings.

Some common feelings or experiences include

  • Feeling sad
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Finding it hard to cope with daily tasks
  • Feeling uneasy
  • Anxiety
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Hypervigilance
  • Being easily startled
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Appetite disturbances
  • Lacking motivation or interest in engaging in activities
  • Confusion or uncertainty
  • A loss of control over your life or your thoughts
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Loss of interest in sex
Survivors' Toolkit Home  |  Emotions & Responses  |  Common Feelings & Responses  |  FAQs  |  Resources