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The Trauma of Campus Rape

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Image credit: photo by Leonardo Yip on Unsplash.

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When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom...

Judith Lewis Herman.

Being raped is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to us. Yet being raped in what we may consider our safe place, i.e. our university or college campus, exacerbates the trauma. Most often the person is someone we know and may even like or have dated. As a result, we might feel incredible confusion about the experience, doubting ourselves and our own memory.

Regardless, no means no, and stop means stop.

Fears of Reporting


  • There might be a question whether to report the rape to the school – this is often a dilemma for many women who have been raped.
  • Often we just want to forget about what happened and move on, yet we know that there is no forgetting.
  • Also, the fear that we will not be believed or the fear that the person will not be reprimanded in any fashion is a scary prospect.
  • Sometimes it’s too traumatizing to imagine going through the campus trial process.
  • We often fear that if we report the incident, then our own motives might be questioned, and our own sexual history examined and brought into the light. For instance, if we were drinking that night, and then knowingly went home with the rapist, and might even have engaged in some level of sexual foreplay, it might be hard for us to then tell another (whether that be a counselor or a campus authority), that we THEN decided not to go further. Even though, the reality is at any stage no still means no.


The fear of not wanting our parents, our friends, and our communities to know that we might have willingly participated in at least some level of sexual play preceding the rape, whether that be kissing or fondling, may be enough to keep a woman from speaking up.

We might feel that unless we are one hundred percent “innocent” in the encounter, then we don’t deserve to speak up for ourselves – as if the only legitimate type of rape is one in which a masked stranger jumps out at us from the bushes.

But in reality, over 80% of rapes are “acquaintance rapes”, one in which the woman knows her attacker. And, even though the rape may not have been as violent in nature as the ones commonly depicted on television, it is still as emotionally damaging and is still rape.

Seeking Help

As with any type of trauma, speaking with a trusted and experienced professional psychotherapist can be a large part of the healing process.

A good therapist will hold open the space necessary for healing and the release of emotions, allowing us to speak of things that we may not be able to with any other person.

At Nassau Guidance & Counseling, we have worked with many survivors of campus rapes, helping each to heal the trauma, and once again find joy in life. We open our hearts to you and hope that you will reach out to find the help you need.

Discover more advice on healing in my complete article.

My hope for you today is for you to reach out if you are hurting.

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