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Understanding the physical, psychological and emotional effects of sexual assault on a survivor is essential to their healing process. Reactions to sexual assault can be physical, psychological or emotional.

Physical and Psychological
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Isolation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fears or phobias
  • Nightmares
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Flashbacks (remembering the assault)
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Thoughts of self-harm, including body mutilation and suicide
  • Denial
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Embarrassment
  • Detachment
  • Anger
  • Shock
  • Shame
  • Lack of control
  • Confusion
  • Emotionlessness

Pay Attention to What You Say to a Survivor

The most important thing to remember is to let the survivor lead the conversation.

Here are some conversation starters:

  • “It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”
  • “Thank you for trusting me with your story.”
  • “I care about you and am here to listen and help any way I can.”
  • “This shouldn’t have happened to you. It must be tough.”

Empower them to make decisions on which steps to take:

  • Ask, “There are resources available to help you recover and report what happened. Are you ready to talk about that?”
  • Ask, “We don’t have to talk or decide about this right now, but can I send you a message with some resources?”
  • Encourage the survivor to practice self-care to help them cope with the short- and long-term effects of a sexual assault.
  • Say, “It’s important to keep your body healthy and strong to support your recovery.” And ask, “Can you think about a time when you felt physically healthy? Is there anything you did to start the day off right or wind down at the end of the day?”
  • Say, “Emotional self-care means different things to different people. And ask, “Can you think about a time when you felt balanced and grounded? What activities did you enjoy? Was there someone, or a group that made you felt safe and supported?”

Tips about self-care after trauma

Learn more here

How Can I Help if I Witness Something? Take Action!

As a band of brothers and sisters, we have a duty and obligation to act. Here are three things you can do:

  1. Notice the event.
  2. Interpret the event as a problem.
  3. Decide how to intervene: direct, distract, delegate, take action.

The 3D’s of Bystander Intervention


  • Address the perpetrator: “You need to stop.” “Why would you say that?” “That is so inappropriate.”
  • Remove either the potential victim or perpetrator from the situation/hostile environment, and say, “Hey, I want to show you something. Come over here with me.”
  • Have personal courage to intervene, and say, “I don’t see how ____ is appropriate or relevant to this conversation.”


  • Do anything that distracts the perpetrator: change the subject, ask the perpetrator or potential victim to do something else, or say, “I think someone is coming.”


  • Delegate others to intervene: have friends, squad/section members or coworkers take the perpetrator or potential victim out of the situation.
  • Send someone to intervene (e.g., chain of command, MPs).

Find your SARC