Being sexually assaulted can leave a man feeling overwhelmed and struggling with something which is outside his normal coping abilities. It is normal to experience a range of emotions, including fear, sadness, anger, numbness, anxiety, shame or embarrassment.
Many men experience feelings of humiliation and hopelessness and it is not uncommon for survivors to say they feel ‘dirty’. Survivors may find themselves wanting to be alone, or alternatively, be with people all the time.
Survivors can experience fluctuating moods from day to day and even hour to hour, or feel depressed and struggle to pull themselves from an overwhelming or constant state of sadness.
Depression is probably unavoidable following sexual assaults. It is not something a person can just ‘snap out of’ – it is a normal process, and will take time. Depression may even have an adaptive value, in that it ‘makes’ us be quiet and rest, which can help in the healing process. However If you find yourself experiencing prolonged and persistent depression you might want to consider getting support.
It’s important to remember there is no right and wrong way to feel. Everyone has different reactions. If you find yourself struggling to cope, or the emotional impacts are affecting your relationships with those you are closest to, seek help.
A note on shame
Many men experience strong feelings of shame after being sexually assaulted. It is a profoundly unfair legacy of sexual abuse that the person who was abused often ends up with feelings of shame.
It can be helpful to remember that the perpetrator consciously chose to abuse you. There is a place for shame after sexual assault, but not with you. It belongs with the person or people who committed the abuse.