Healing After Sexual Assault
Healing after sexual assault and what can be done. Experiencing sexual assault is one of the most traumatic things that someone can go through. Unfortunately, it isn’t all that uncommon of an experience. Still, experiencing sexual assault leaves many people grasping at straws to figure out some sense of normalcy. So if you have been a victim of sexual assault, how can you start to heal?
Talk About It
Talking about your experience might be the last thing you feel comfortable doing, and that’s okay. Yet, trauma such as sexual assault has a way of eating away at you and your well-being. Until you recognize it and respond to it. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. It only makes it stronger. Healing needs to come on your timeline. Don’t force it if you aren’t ready to open up and share what has happened with your loved ones.
For various reasons, it can be challenging to open up about sexual assault. Survivors may find it embarrassing or even have guilt within themselves over not stopping it from happening. It can also be tough to admit to being so vulnerable to the people around you. If you can’t talk to a friend or a therapist, consider calling a sexual assault hotline in your area. You can get quick support and a listening ear.
Healing After Sexual Assault
Take Care Of Yourself
After experiencing a sexual assault, you may feel that you’ve lost your sense of safety. It can be all too tempting to use destructive coping mechanisms to deal with the world around you.
Yet, unhealthy coping mechanisms will only cause more harm in the end. After a sexual assault, survivors are more likely to self-harm, develop eating disorders, or succumb to drug or alcohol addiction. Instead of masking one problem with another, it’s essential to stick to a regular eating schedule, get enough sleep, and avoid misusing drugs and alcohol as much as you can.
There are plenty of healthy things you can do to cope. You can take up a journaling habit or go for walks with friends.
The most important thing you can do to take care of yourself after a sexual assault is to remind yourself that what happened is not your fault. Guilt often plagues victims of sexual assault, and it’s important to remember that no matter what you might have said or done, the blame lies solely with the perpetrator.
Have A Plan For Flashbacks
Unfortunately, many survivors of trauma have to live their experiences more than once. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the trauma happens again physically, but the body and brain always remember and may be on constant alert. This might lead to unpleasant nightmares or flashbacks, especially in the weeks and months directly following the initial assault.
In the case that you find yourself face to face with a flashback, you may feel like you’re living the experience again and feel detached from the world around you.
Keep reminding yourself that this is just a flashback, and it isn’t reality. Find things in the present to help ground you, such as touching the bark of a tree or feeling a soft blanket. Breathe in the scent of where you are. Can you hear birds singing? Crickets chirping? Remind yourself of where you are, in whatever way you can. Keep control of your breathing, and you should be able to ease yourself out of the flashback.
Take Your Body Back
It can be difficult for survivors of sexual assault to feel comfortable in their bodies.
When your own body has become a crime scene, it can be challenging to want to exist in your body or take care of it. Yet, taking back ownership of yourself and your body is one of the most critical healing steps after a sexual assault.
Some ideas for taking ownership of your body include yoga, boxing, dancing, mindfulness, and getting massages.
While none of these things on their own will fully help you heal after a sexual assault, they can help you feel connected with your body again after feeling like your autonomy was stolen from you.
Healing after a sexual assault takes time, effort, and a lot of patience, but it is possible to feel like yourself again. Make sure to give yourself lots of grace, take care of your body, and open up about your experiences to the people you trust.
Originally published at https://lifecounselingorlando.com on November 5, 2021.