The US Department of Justice defines sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. This definition is inclusive of commonly recognized sexual assaults such as rape, forced sexual intercourse, molestation, and incest – it also includes fondling and any type of sexual contact that occurs without consent.
For those (men and women) who have experienced any type of sexual assault, responding to and recovering from the trauma is a personal process. Unfortunately this process is one that for many has become more complicated by today’s headlines – as we are empowered by one person opening up and breaking the silence that bound their assault, we are immediately confronted by strangers maligning the person’s character and discrediting the trauma. This can, not only, re-traumatize the person that spoke out but also re-traumatize those observing the response.
To those struggling with a trauma reaction after a sexual assault: your feelings and experience are understandable. And any additional difficulties you are experiencing as a result of today’s headlines is also understandable. You deserve to take back your feeling of worth and personal control.
Often fear, shame, and feelings of worthlessness seem to settle within after any sexual assault. And too often, I hear new clients’ dismissing their trauma and berating themselves for how they feel: It wasn’t that bad… It could have been so much worse… I shouldn’t have gone by myself… I must have led him on… Know that your assault was not your fault and your feelings are valid.
However, we are all unique and process things differently – therefore no one’s trauma experience or recovery process is the same. Working with a therapist, you have the opportunity to explore your trauma in a safe non-judgmental space.
While it can sometimes be anxiety-producing to allow yourself to see a therapist, taking the step and choosing to share your story with a trained clinician is a powerful first step. A therapist helps you validate your experiences and feelings – assisting you through your process as you work through the trauma and heal.
Many of PeoplePsych’s therapists specialize in trauma recovery. Choosing to see someone is a hard step – take time to find the therapist that is right for you.