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The purpose of this section is to define survivorship and provide information on the aftermath of sexual violence. While understanding the survivor is crucial to ensuring a fair and supportive adjudication process, it is just as important to understand the perpetrator. What are my expectations of survivors’ behavior, before, during and after the assault, and how am I allowing this to affect my assessment of the perpetrator’s behavior?
What messages have I received or am I still receiving from friends, family, my community, the media, and society about survivors? Break the scenario down into a set of actions that led to the assault and, at each step, ask yourself what the perpetrator could have done to prevent a sexually violent act from occurring. Survivors suffer a great deal of physical and emotional trauma as a result of a sexual assault. Please review the lists below for a description of common health effects following sexual and relationship violence, while keeping in mind this list is not exhaustive and may not represent your experiences or those of someone you know.
Immediately following sexual assault, survivors may be faced with a host of physical, behavioral and cognitive outcomes that evidence a traumatic event.
The intense, difficult effects of these conditions, along with the added difficulty of accessing ongoing affordable and effective treatment, can leave survivors with little energy or few tools to properly advocate on their own behalf. Few studies have been done to gather evidence on the sexual assault or sexual abuse of males. The physiological reactions that a male-identified person experiences during a sexual assault may make it more difficult for him to recognize that he was sexually assaulted.
Masculinity can mean different things for different people depending on one’s socialization, culture, and environmental influences.
Also, if the survivor and perpetrator are from a marginalized group, the survivor may feel pressured into remaining silent so as not to bring negative attention to the group. Financial disparity between survivor and perpetrator can also dissuade a survivor from seeking help or justice. Inadequate responses from health and legal professionals compound the trauma and confusion that survivors are already experiencing. The ecological model presented below (Figure 1), explains how these factors relate to each other. There are many reasons why a survivor might choose not to report or to stop pursuing a case after reporting it. The survivor might believe that involving the police or justice system could lead to a time-consuming and invasive process with little chance of a tangible result. The survivor is worried that the Conduct Officers or justice system will find the perpetrator not responsible, making the reporting seem like an unnecessary and demoralizing ordeal. If the perpetrator is found responsible for committing a sexual assault and receives a significant punishment, the survivor may face retaliation from other members of the community for getting someone in trouble. The survivor may have already had a bad experience with legal systems or the conduct process, or know someone else who has.
The survivor might not have access to money for any legal fees that could be associated with reporting. The survivor might be focusing on coping with mental health symptoms, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, PTSD, academic difficulties, and safety concerns, and not have the time, energy, or support to pursue the case. The survivor may have been engaging in other embarrassing or illegal activities and fears the conduct or legal process will uncover these. Adapted to Emory University with permission by a team of Respect Program staff and interns from the University of Michigan’s Striving for Justice document.


Survivors of assault and abuse are sharing their experiences on a powerful new Tumblr, Lasting Impact. Founder Alison, who asked that her last name remain private, created Lasting Impact to raise awareness about the long-lasting impact that incidents of sexual assault, domestic violence, and emotional and physical abuse have on those who experience them. The Tumblr entries come from survivors who write in to share how their experiences affected and changed them. Specifically, this section will address the trauma that a survivor might experience during and following an assault, common short-term and long-term health consequences of sexual violence, and survivor sexuality. Survivors may express different verbal cues - silence or screaming, for example - based on their assessment of safety.
Responses to a sexual assault can be immediate or delayed, with effects lasting anywhere from a few days to the remainder of the survivor’s life. Re-experiencing: Reliving the event, which might include body memories and flashbacks, in a way that can interfere with daily life. Avoidance: Often expressed as guilt, depression, or numbness and most noticeable as an intense need to escape various situations that were once typical for the survivor. Hyper-arousal: Survivor is easily startled, tense, anxiety-ridden, and plagued by angry outbursts. How might the cognitive effects of sexual and intimate partner violence affect a survivor’s ability to disclose and describe their assault(s)?
As an advocate, do I have any characteristics that may cause the survivor to associate me with the perpetrator? The Department of Justice estimates that males underreport or report less frequently than do females, making it very difficult to truly understand the magnitude of the issue. Some men may have an erection or ejaculate during a sexual assault and may thus feel confused, wondering if this means that perhaps they enjoyed the experience. Survivors may also reciprocate violence or become physically defensive over a period of time, making it increasingly difficult to recognize and speak out about the violence someone is perpetrating against them.
These factors are often exacerbated when the survivor identifies as or is perceived to be socioeconomically disadvantaged, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, an immigrant, or a member of a racial or ethnic minority.
This section will examine the reporting process at Emory and describe some of the barriers that survivors may encounter when deciding whether or not to report.
A common reaction the survivor might have experienced from friends or family members is that situations like this could not possibly happen. Other times, sexual violence is perpetrated on partners who know the violence is coming but do not feel they can refuse.
Each survivor of sexual assault responds uniquely, and the recovery process is different for each individual.
Genital injury, which has been previously documented in up to 68% of reported rape cases (Slaughter et al., 1997), may go unnoticed if not assessed quickly by a health professional.
How can I respect this person’s boundaries while carrying out my role as a social justice advocate? Male survivors may also feel concerned that their arousal will cause others to believe that they were not really assaulted. This cultural assumption may cause a male survivor of sexual violence to feel isolated in his reaction to the abuse, and hesitant to share his feelings with someone else – especially if the perpetrator is a woman.
For perpetrators and survivors sharing finances or other significant material possessions, leaving the abusive relationship can be financially devastating.
Additionally, survivors might interpret their intense emotions – fear, arousal, stress - as sexual feelings, and come to desire the heightened sensations.


A 2009 study by the Center for Public Integrity revealed that the most often cited reason for not reporting a sexual assault was institutional barriers on campus.
Another common reaction is to blame and scrutinize the survivors’ behavior, making the survivor reluctant to report assaults in future.
Survivors will each have their own unique response to an assault, and they will not all look or act the same way or say the same things.
These variations are not meant to overwhelm the reader but rather broaden our collective understanding of what sexual violence is. While there are individual differences to survivors’ experiences of sexual assault, there are common patterns to trauma recovery that are normative and natural. Reproductive injuries, which can sustain their effects for longer periods, require a gynecological exam that survivors may find invasive, painful and triggering.
In reality, erections and ejaculations may be purely physiological responses, sometimes caused by intense fear or pain.
When survivors and perpetrators share family connections, internal pressure can silence the survivor. As government policy offers incentives for these entanglements, many survivors will delay seeking help to figure out a complex exit strategy from their partners.
These feelings may subside over time, end with the termination of a sexually violent relationship, or continue as the survivor begins to navigate their sexuality post-assault. As a Conduct Officer, it is therefore crucial that you make every effort to ensure the survivor has full access to all of the resources you are able to provide. Due to a delay in assessment following sexual assault, such physical effects can go unnoted and thus be immaterial for future judicial use.
In fact, some perpetrators will deliberately manipulate their victim to orgasm out of a desire to completely control their victims.
The disclosure of a violent act or acts can mean family relations change in ways that negatively affect the survivor’s support system. However, ongoing violence and emotional ties can often further delay the process of leaving an abusive situation. Ensuring a comfortable and supportive environment for the survivor does not mean you have to compromise fairness and impartiality in the conduct process. Furthermore, a lack of early assessment and treatment following sexual assault can cause more disastrous health consequences in the future. It must be reinforced that sexual assault and violence are about power and control, not about sexual pleasure and enjoyment. It is for these reasons that understanding and supporting survivors as quickly as possible can be critical to their ability to seek justice and receive effective treatment. It is a commonly perpetuated rape myth that male survivors of sexual violence cannot truly feel assaulted or abused if they showed physical signs of arousal during the incident. However, in the case that disclosure is delayed due to survivor comfort, advocates and professionals can still play a vital role in promoting the health and safety of the survivor.



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