Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney

Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit

Sherry Boston, District Attorney

Rape Trauma Syndrome

Stage 1: Acute / Impact Reaction 
  • Immediately and several days after the rape
  • Ways of showing anger
    • Expressed style - fear, crying, smiling, restlessness, tenseness
    • Controlled style - feelings hidden by calm, composed attitude
  • Somatic reactions
    • Physical: soreness from physical attack
    • Skeletal muscle tension: inability to sleep, edgy, or jumpy
    • Gastrointestinal irritability: Stomach pains, appetite affected, nausea
    • Genital disturbances: vaginal discharge, and itchy, burning sensation on urination, chronic vaginal infections, rectal bleeding / pain
  • Emotional Reactions
    • Fear
    • Shock, disbelief
    • Agitation / anger
    • Shame / self-blame
    • Confusion / bewilderment
    • Extreme sense of guilt
Stage 2: Outward Adjustment Phase 
  • Lasts from weeks to months
  • Emotional reactions
    • Intense fear
    • Anxiety
    • Denial
    • Lost sense of security
  • Physical signs
    • Burning sensation when urinating and itching or burning discharge from vagina
    • Tension headaches
    • Nausea, caused by anti-pregnancy and/or anti-venereal medicine
Stage 3: Depressed Phase 
  • Lasts days to months
  • Victim's emotions
    • Loss of self-esteem as defenses break down
    • Obsessive memories
    • Uncertain about being able to control life, and environment
Stage 4: Integration and Resolution Phase
  • Lasts months to years
  • Emotions
    • Lack of trust in men or partners
    • Anxious and depressed when something reminds the victim of the rape
Important Reminder 
During each stage of Rape Trauma Syndrome the victim’s needs are paramount. They will need support from someone who accepts them, believes them, and can to listen to them. Each stage will require support to make the victim feel as safe as possible and ensure that she is not isolated and alone.