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Helping Victims of Violence

If you have additional questions or need to have support, please contact the Center for Women Students at (814) 863-2027.

Common Reactions to Violence

Ways to Help a Victim

Resolution & Acceptance

Reactions to Violence

Any person who is a victim of violence will have both physical and emotional reactions to the experience. It is important to remember each survivor of violence will have a unique reaction; however some of the more common feelings are listed below:

Shock and Fear

In the hours and days following the event, shock, denial and withdrawal are common reactions. It may seem hard to believe that the violence occurred at times and the survivor may alternate between strong emotional reactions, such as crying, laughing, angry outbursts, shaking, and periods of flatness or numbness. At times there may be terror that the perpetrator will return or fear of being in places similar to where the violence occurred. Rape Trauma Syndrome, which is a form of post-traumatic stress, is the name given to the complex experience that a victim of sexual violence experiences.


Often the survivor of violence will deny that the experience has had a serious impact and may repeatedly reassure others that it is over and everything is fine. Some do this because of a belief that no one wants to hear about the assault anymore or in an attempt to shut out the pain and return to 'normal.' This denial period can last for a brief time or for years. During this time, some people will turn to dangerous coping techniques to manage their discomfort, including drugs, alcohol, disordered eating, or other types of self-injury. It is important to continue encouraging the survivor of sexual violence to express her reactions and feelings long after the event has occurred.

Feelings of Loss

Once the impact of the violence becomes a reality, there may be profound feelings of loss, sadness, grief, and even depression. Specific reactions can include nightmares, changes in social activities, eating and sleeping disorders, physical complaints, and relationship difficulties. "Flashbacks," or disturbing memories of an assault, may disrupt daily life and the ability to concentrate on work or school. It is not uncommon for mood swings to occur and for feelings of anger to be misdirected at people they know. As a support person, it is important to be patient and understand that this is part of the healing process.

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Important Ways You Can Help:

204 Boucke Building | 814.863.2027 | Contact the Center for Women Students