Experiencing sexual assault can make you feel like a dark cloud has descended upon you.
You might even feel powerless or like you’re not in control of your own life.
These negative feelings are trauma at its core. Enduring sexual assault can cause you to experience flashbacks, low self-esteem, and harsh anxiety. These are all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. You have a right to find your emotional freedom, reclaim your calm, and enjoy life again. Following are a few tips on how to do just that by successfully coping with the trauma of sexual assault.
Validate the Way You Feel
Although it’s a huge temptation to put on a brave face and suppress your own emotions, this strategy will not help you heal. It’s not uncommon for a sexual assault survivor to feel numbness followed by an overwhelming array of emotions.
No matter how negative they are, it’s important to acknowledge your emotions. Your feelings are real, legitimate, and important to your recovery.
Pay attention to what’s happening on the inside and the thoughts you think. It’s even a good idea to journal about what you’re going through. Not only will this help to validate the way you feel, but it will help you to form some sort of perspective as well.
Reach Out for Support
At a time when you might feel like shutting down or going silent, it’s important to do just the opposite. Self-expression nurtures the healing process unlike anything else.
Find a trusted friend or family member in which to confide. The goal in talking about what happened to you isn’t to make you relive the situation. Rather, it’s to help you expose the emotional wounds and assist you in processing them.
In addition to friends and family, it’s a good idea to reach out to a professional therapist experienced in trauma recovery. Armed with valuable knowledge, your therapist can help you navigate even the most complex emotions.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
After experiencing sexual assault, you might feel like you’re existing outside of your body. Remember how important it is to accept yourself as a whole person–-body, mind, and soul. And nurture each part accordingly.
Take the time to focus on your self-care routine. Establish a daily schedule and then stick to it. In addition to a daily routine, go out of your way to make yourself feel loved. Whether it’s the spa, splurging on dinner, or spending time with your favorite book, remain dedicated to self-love.
It might even be attractive to change a lot in your life all at once to try and eliminate any little triggers you might face. Rather than changing so many parts of your life to help you move past the sexual assault, aim for self-love instead.
Reassure Yourself that Recovery is Possible
In the beginning, your heart will likely ache in a way that you’ve never felt before. Reclaiming your life could even seem impossible in that moment. After a while, you might even believe that you’re ruined or irredeemably damaged.
Although you might not ever return to the person you were before the sexual assault, you can still find a new place in this world. You’re not ruined by any means, but you will have to learn to see yourself differently.
Your healing depends on your genuine belief that you are capable of healing. It’s normal to ask why such a negative thing happened to you or to even feel guilt or shame. But even with the bombarding thoughts, be sure to embrace those thoughts that support healing and recovery.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to regain control of your emotions and your life after enduring a traumatic experience, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT