What Are the Signs of Sexual Trauma?

Signs of Sexual AbuseAre you the friend or family member of someone who you know or suspect was sexually assaulted?

Are you feeling helpless about what to do?

A survivor of abuse can eventually reclaim their power, become a conscious creator of their lives and thrive. I honor you and thank you on their behalf for even thinking about helping them.

Yeaaah you! We need a world of yous!

Sexual violence has mental, emotional, and physical effects on survivors. You may struggle with what to do when you are witnessing the meltdown of someone you love.

First, know that you are not alone.

Unfortunately, sexual assaults are more common than you may know. You probably know at least one other person who is going through the same thing. Support is available for you as well as your loved one. At the end is a resource link. Reach out!

One of the most common things you will witness is sudden changes in behaviors, thoughts, and patterns. And they may change from one thing to another just as quickly. These are typical for someone who has experienced trauma.

Recovery is a journey.

For example, someone who normally wears tight jeans is suddenly wearing baggy sweats all the time. Below are more changes and how you can help.

Here are the Top 7 Signs of Sexual Abuse and Suggestions on How to Help.

  • #1 Possible Symptom of Sexual Abuse

    How to Overcome the Feelings of Guilt from Sexual AbuseWithdrawal or Clinging

    Your loved one is usually happy and has a positive attitude. Now you notice that all they want to do is stay home.  They were always pushing you to go out and now they’ve stopped asking you. Withdrawal is a common response after a sexual assault.

    They may also respond the opposite way and get very clingy. They may want to spend more time with you, fearing being alone.

    How to Help

    It’s important to address either behavior with them and not push it under the rug. It may be their way of calling for your help. Be gentle, let them know that you’ve noticed that they are spending a lot of time at home or not wanting to be alone. Ask them if they would like to talk about anything. Let them know that you are there for them. Give them space and don’t force anything. Tell them that you are there for them and will be there if/when they are ready to talk. Sexual abuse is about power…power that has been stripped away, so the last thing we want to do is force them to do something they’re not ready to do.

  • #2 Sign of Sexual Trauma or Abuse

    Symptoms of Sexual AbuseElevated Sense of Fear

    Sexual abuse stirs up a lot of fear because it is so traumatic. It brings up fears that a survivor may have never experienced before. Fear that can be irrational bordering on paranoid. Their safety and sense of self have been deeply disrupted.

    My understanding is that fear, at the deepest level stems from guilt. Guilt is a typical feeling associated with sexual assault. A survivor may feel guilty for what happened and guilt brings with it an existential fear that they deserve punishment. It is difficult to see a loved one go through this. It is nearly impossible to tell them that they don’t deserve to punish themselves…as it falls on deaf ears.

    How to Help

    Love, compassion, and creating feelings of safety can help. In my work as a wisdom coach and Reiki Master, fear is an energy imbalance in the root chakra, an energy center at the base of the spine. If addressed in a holistic way, Reiki healing, aromatherapy, crystal therapy, music, and sound therapy can help. I offer all of these therapies through my Living Light programs.

  • # 3 Sign of Sexual Abuse or Trauma

    Mood Fluctuations

    How to Rebuild Confidence and self-empowermentSexual abuse disrupts the body and mind of a survivor. This causes inner confusion on all levels. Feelings and emotions fluctuate up and down constantly, rushing through the body hard and fast. Emotions are triggered.

    Here’s an example: the survivor is eating something that they really enjoy, then suddenly they begin crying or feeling very anxious. They may remember that they were eating this food before they were assaulted and it becomes a reminder to them. This is just one example of many possibilities.

    How to Help

    Aromatherapy is a way to quickly relieve mood fluctuations. Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for healing. They can be placed in a diffuser or a simple technique is to place a few drops in your hand, rub your hands together until hot and inhale deeply a few times. Always test on a small area of your skin before using.

    The following essential oils have been proven effective for mood stabilization:

    • Lavender
    • Frankincense
    • Bergamot
    • Ylang ylang
  • #4 Symptom of Sexual Abuse

    Symptom of Sexual Trauma Can Be Hiding or SecretiveBeing Secretive

    We are only as sick as our secrets. Sexual abuse causes a lot of shame and guilt. A survivor may hold a lot in because they think it may make you feel bad. It may also be too difficult for them to face. In addition, they may have been told by the perpetrator of the abuse to not tell anyone or they would harm their loved ones.

    How to Help

    Secrets are toxic. It is important for the survivor to reach out and get help.

    Talking is so helpful. Being listened to in a safe and supportive way can allow for a release that begins the healing process.

    If you don’t feel comfortable or feel unprepared to bring up the topic, help the survivor to find someone they can talk to. A therapist who works with sexual assault survivors can be helpful.

    If they aren’t comfortable speaking to a therapist there are other alternatives. If they attend a church, they may want to speak with their pastor or a leader. They can find a support group. Other suggestions might be a life coach or energy healer if they are more spiritual.

  • #5 Symptoms of Sexual Trauma

    Self-Harm and Cutting Symptom of Sexual TraumaSelf-harming Behaviors

    Cutting and burning the skin are common self-harming behaviors. After a sexual assault, many people lose the ability to “feel” life and this is a way that they can feel again.

    Survivors may also want to release tension or harm themselves because they feel guilt, shame and unworthy. Harming themselves is a means of punishment. It can also relieve anxiety.

    How to Help

    First off, showing them love, kindness and compassion will go a long way. Beating them up about them “beating themselves up” won’t make them feel any better. I know it is scary to see your loved ones hurt themselves. I would ask you to trust in the process. And check yourself if you find yourself reacting very strongly.

    Holistic therapies include Reiki and other energy medicine, sound healing, binaural beats, crystal therapy, and aromatherapy. This may also include speaking with a psychologist, holistic therapist, or wisdom coach.

    Help Guide is a resource to learn more about self-harm.

  • #6 Signs of Trauma and PTSD

    Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can be signs of PTSD and traumaDisordered Eating

    Another sign of sexual abuse is eating disorders. Controlling food is a way of taking back control. As I said above, sexual assault is about power. This can become a way of reclaiming their power.

    Here are a few common eating disorders:

    • Anorexia: Dramatic weight loss. They may be restricting food or counting every calorie that they put in their mouth. They may eat only one type of food, and/or constantly call themselves “fat”.
    • Bulimia: They may be binge eating, meaning that they eat very large amounts of food, then get rid of it. Purging by throwing up or take laxatives are common. Watch for signs of them going to the bathroom after every meal. This may be a sign that they are throwing up. The survivor may have dental problems or discoloration of the teeth from vomiting.
    • Compulsive Exercise: Exercise that significantly interferes with important activities, occurs at inappropriate times or in inappropriate settings or occurs when the individual exercises despite injury or other medical complications.

    How to Help

    There is plenty of support, resources, and treatment options on the National Eating Disorders (NEDA) website. They provide an online chat at, text or phone helpline: 800-931-2237

  • #7 Signs of Sexual Abuse and PTSD

    Suicidal Thoughts Are Common Signs of PTSD and Sexual TraumaTalks About Suicide

    Suicide is a way to end suffering and is seen as a way out for someone who is in excruciating mental and/or physical pain. A survivor may be feeling hopeless and talk about ending it all. You may be freaking out and not sure what to do.

    How to Help

    Take the threat seriously.

    Let them know that you care.

    If their intentions are not clear, ask them point-blank:

    Are you thinking about suicide?

    It seems counter-intuitive, the opposite of what you think you should do, but asking will not push them to act.

    Talking about their thoughts and feelings may actually serve as a release valve, thus buying more time. Learn as much as you can about their suicide plan.

    A suicide threat assessment tool that I find helpful is easily remembered by the acronym SLAP:

    • Specific plan – has the survivor thought about how, where, and when they would commit suicide? A plan that is specific is much closer to being carried out than one that is only general: “I don’t know how, but I’m gonna do it.”
    • Lethality – how deadly is the plan? I’m not overly concerned about a plan to overdose on Vitamin C, but if someone says they’re going to shoot themselves or jump from a freeway overpass, they have my full attention.
    • Availability (of means) – does your friend have or can they easily get what they needs to carry out their plan?
    • Proximity (of help) – How close help is can indicate determination. Isolation holds the most risk. Are they at or going to an isolated location?

    If there’s an immediate risk, call 911, or as of July 16, 2022 dial 988-the national mental health crisis line. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers a 24/7 hotline: 800-273-8255 is available for resources in English and Spanish.

If you know someone still suffering from PTSD or trauma, share this.

Reiki Healing-Distance Healing-Learn how to deal with anxiety, experience stress relief, let go of shame and guilt Blossom Beyond Abuse provides distance healing, and Reiki healing services for individuals seeking relief from anxiety, stress, guilt, and shame from sexual abuse, trauma, and PTSD from a wide variety of issues. Though I am a distance energy healer and am not limited to location, I serve clients from around the world and my local communities including Southington, CT, Hartford, Farmington, Newington, Cheshire, and West Hartford Connecticut.