Put the Focus on Victims
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Stages of Trauma and Recovery

Denial or Outward Adjustment

After the assault, victims may realize that their lives have changed forever. Figuring out how to move forward can be a very important first step after the crisis period. Some victims reestablish routines but have underlying, unexpressed feelings that percolate over time. While in this phase, victims attempt to make sense out of the crime and exert a lot of emotional energy attempting to resume their lives as they previously knew them.

If you are working with victims during this stage, be aware that the following issues and behaviors can surface:

  • Physical reactions: Flashbacks, disconnection with body, negative responses to sensory triggers, weakened immune system, and fatigue.
  • Emotional reactions: Vulnerability, isolation, anxiety, hypersensitivity, a sense of being out of control, grief, anger, generalized fear, depression, and defensiveness.
  • Thoughts: Low self-esteem, self-blame, rape-related thoughts, believing that "I'll never be the same" or "I make people feel uncomfortable," and feeling like no one understands.
  • Behaviors: Avoiding crowds, withdrawing from people and activities, changes in appearance, self-endangerment, self-injury, suicide attempts, self-medication (e.g., drug or alcohol abuse), avoiding being alone, and disengaging from activities that were previously enjoyed.
  • Environment: Stressful thoughts and feelings triggered by contact with the perpetrator, seasonal reminders/anniversaries, media coverage, societal beliefs, and the criminal justice process.
  • Intimacy: Relationship doubts, further victimization in unhealthy or abusive relationships, trust issues, and avoiding sex or having sex when one doesn't want to.
  • Family: Loss of support from family and family members struggling with their own underlying life experiences.
  • Spirituality: Believing that the trauma resulted from bad karma or God's will, struggling with ideas about good and evil, subscribing meaning to the event, and seeking support from one's faith and religious community.