Frequently Asked Questions by Survivors

“Why did this person do this to me – could they not control their sexual urges?”

Sexual violence has nothing to do with the perpetrator’s lack of control and instead is about gaining power and control. Sexual violence is about one or more person(s) intentionally having control over another person and sex is used as a way to do so.

“Is this my fault because I was drinking?”

No one asks to be assaulted and it is never the survivor’s fault. Alcohol, in particular, is often used by perpetrators to coerce or incapacitate a survivor.

“Why didn’t I do anything when it was happening?”

Your brain and your body decided what was necessary in order to survive the trauma. Oftentimes, the parts of our brain responsible for problem-solving and thinking rationally shut off during a traumatic event in order to allow other parts of our brain to do what it needs to do to help keep us safe. Additionally, some people experience tonic immobility, a biological response to trauma in which one feels paralyzed and physically cannot move.

“Why do I sometimes feel like it’s happening all over again?”

Traumatic memories can be different from normal memories. Due to the stress chemicals that your body released during and after the trauma, your brain has strongly recorded those memories, making them feel real in the current moment. These moments are sometimes called flashbacks. Sometimes people also feel like it is happening all over again because they have experienced a trigger. A trigger is a sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste that can remind someone of the traumatic event.

“Why am I so jumpy?”

Sexual assault and other traumas affect parts of the brain that control the ‘startle response.’ Those parts of the brain are linked to anxiety and the effects can be lasting if left untreated.

“Why can’t I just get over it?”

No one was taught how to heal from trauma and it can be scary. Healing is not linear and can take time, as everyone’s healing journey looks different. It is understandable to feel frustrated about how this has impacted you over time. Reaching out for help can make a big difference.

“Why did someone I love do this to me? Is it still sexual assault if it was my (friend, family, partner, etc.)?”

Most survivors of sexual violence know their perpetrator and in fact perpetrators often use that relationship in order to gain power and control over the other person. A past or current romantic or sexual relationship with the perpetrator does not constitute consent and does not give them the right to have sexual contact with you without consent.

“What if I think what happened to me is my fault?”

A. Thoughts about responsibility and feelings of guilt are really common responses. Sometimes we blame ourselves for what happened as a result of victim blaming. Victim blaming occurs when survivors are made to feel that the sexual violence they experienced is their fault. This can be a result of statements made by friends, family, or others, but can also be something survivors experience through societal messaging. Victim blaming reinforces the idea that you did something wrong or something is wrong with you because of what happened. Check out the Sexual Assault Information Handout for Friends and Family for ways in which friends and family can be supportive.