Sexual Assault Survivors: PTSD and Substance Abuse

Sexual assault is traumatic, psychological, and emotional experience for survivors. Sexual assault survivors will experience feelings and emotions of stress, anxiety, sleeping problems, fear, flashbacks, loss of freedom, loss of control, guilt, and isolation. These are very normal reactions and feelings of sexual assault survivors.

When these feelings last longer than a month and interrupt the survivor’s daily routine, then it is time to seek the help of a mental health care professional because this is a symptom of the condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is not easy being a survivor of sexual violence; however, with the help from a mental health care professional these feeling and emotions are manageable as you work on the healing process and on the road to recovery.

Victim Reactions to Sexual Assault

PTSD and Substance Abuse

In a study of sexual assault female survivors by Ullman, Townsend, Starzynski, and Long (2006) discovered that women sexual assault survivors with PTSD are more likely to have drinking (alcohol beverages) problems and to use drugs, than women who have not experienced a sexual assault. Coker, Weston, Creson, Justice, and Blakeney (2005) research results found that women who experience intimate partner violence (IPV) are at a particularly high risk for developing PTSD.

This is why early treatment with a mental health care professional is important to help manage survivor emotions and feelings so you can heal with professional guidance and care.

Empowering Sexual Assault Survivors

Safe Horizon is the largest survivor services agency in the United States. The agency has created a guide for sexual assault survivors.

After Sexual Assault: A Recovery Guide for Survivors

Surviving sexual assault does not have to change who you are. Seeking help from mental health care professionals trained in sexual assault trauma is the best way to fight back and empower your recovery.


Coker, A. L., Weston, R., Creson, D. L., Justice, B., & Blakeney, P. (2005). PTSD symptoms among men and women survivors of intimate partner violence: The role of risk and protective factors. Violence and Victims, 20(6), 625-43. Retrieved from

Ullman, S. E., Townsend, S. M., Starzynski, L. L., & Long, L. M. (2006). Correlates of comorbid PTSD and polysubstance use in sexual assault victims. Violence and Victims, 21(6), 725-43. Retrieved from


About the Author

Mark Bond

Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 33 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. As a lifelong learner, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.