Guest post by: Cara Lynch, LMSW, Therapist, HAVEN
Although April is recognized as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the reality for many survivors is that every month, or maybe even every day, is a time they are affected by sexual assault. As one of HAVEN’s counselors, I talk to women and men every week who often ask me, “Will I ever not think about it?” Really what they want to know is “Will I ever be OK again? Will I ever heal from this?” And the answer I give is always the same, “Yes, healing is entirely possible and survivors are healing every day.” So if someone out there is reading this and asking herself/himself the same question, here are some things I want you to know about healing:
- You are not alone. Statistics tells us that unfortunately, sexual trauma is still exceedingly common in our society, so you are most likely not the only person in your community dealing with this, even if no one else is talking about it.
- You are not the blame. I don’t care what you were wearing, what you were doing (or what you didn’t do), how you much you drank, whether you had sex with the person before, I don’t care about any of that. No one has a claim to your body, your sexuality, or your personhood. The only person to blame here is the person or persons who chose to completely disrespect and disregard your universal human rights.
- Whatever feelings you have afterwards are OK. There is no wrong or right way to feel following an assault and while there are some very common reactions among survivors, the truth remains that every survivor thinks and feelings differently about what has happened.
- Give yourself time. You may think, “It’s been x amount of days/months/years since it happened. I should be over it by now.” There are no shoulds when it comes to healing and there is no deadline. It is incredibly normal to want to speed up the process – healing can be hard and it can be no fun sometimes – and yet judging yourself for where you are in that process is a sure-fire way to make yourself feel worse.
- Take care of yourself, even in simple ways, as best you can. Sometimes that just means basic things like sleeping, eating, and staying hydrated. It can also mean taking time, even if it is just a few minutes, to do something that makes you feel good – reading, going for a walk, enjoying a cup of tea, watching a funny cat video on YouTube, or listening to music. Focus on things that soothe you.
- Find support. Avoidance and isolation are very common and normal for someone working through trauma and unfortunately, giving in to it all of the time can also makes things worse. Reach out to friends and family if that is a safe option for you, look for online support groups or communities, or contact us. You can call our 24-hour Crisis and Support Line any time of day at 877-922-1274 and you can even chat with a crisis counselor online by going to our website, haven-oakland.org, and clicking the live chat button. The crisis counselors can also make referrals to the counseling program for additional support, including options for both individual counseling and support groups.
We are here for you, we believe you, and you don’t have to do this alone.