Healing The Body From Sexual Trauma

Breana, sobbing on and off in my office, discussed the desperate need to find relief from the overwhelming feelings that created intense activation, those moments when the pain felt unbearable. She had been raped several years before and discussed how hopeless she felt knowing that she could still feel like this, as if her assault had just happened. We had been working to identify her triggers while also working on what she could do to get through those moments that came out of nowhere, puncturing her life and sense of safety.

She discussed how seeing someone who resembled her perpetrator always knocked her off course as is the case for many survivors of sexual trauma. But for others, triggers may happen differently. It may be hearing a song that was playing in the bar the night of the attack or the smell of cologne that we feel certain our attacker was wearing the night everything changed. And for many of us, it can simply be a random thought that takes us down whether we are at home with our families, in meetings at work, or brushing our teeth. Random thoughts about what happened and how we have been impacted can invade without warning, when we are alone and when we are with others.

You Will Never Go Back To The Beginning

Breana would talk about how someone could innocently touch her shoulder and how she would feel the panic set in, how she would jump or cry out, shocking the person who meant no harm, and feeling the heat of embarrassment due to her dramatic reaction. Activated, our bodies may tighten, clench, and even recoil when we just think about being touched. Trauma memory can infect every cell and although you may know you are safe now, your body may not..But there are things you can do to help your body catch up.


Cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis is a wonderful way to retrain our bodies after trauma because it allows the body an opportunity to realize that we can have elevated heart rates, exert ourselves, and be safe at the same time. Repetitive movement can soothe the nervous system as we find rhythm in our movement such as when we fall into a comfortable jog, repeatedly turn the pedals of the bike with our strong legs, or when we dance.


There are a lot of papers, seminars, and books on the power of yoga as a healing practice. It creates stillness, promotes gentle stretching, and reminds us to focus on the power of our breath. Yoga also reminds us to focus on balance, holding a challenging pose while also finding relaxation in the same moment. What a wonderful way to remind the body that it is not all bad.


Finding the space to sit quietly, to focus the mind, and to also relax the body is proof that we are safe. If trauma kicks us out of the body then meditation can bring us back. The moment is a powerful place to take up space. Practice regularly.

We have to come back to our bodies in order to help them heal, but connecting back to ourselves may put us at risk of connecting to parts of our story on a deeper level or to wounds we have yet to heal. Trauma fragments us (or rather the pain) into what feels like smaller and more manageable pieces, but at some point it is time to come home. The only way through it is through it. Feel your way through the pain and know that through loving yourself, your body, andothers you are getting the corrective experience that you need to fully heal. You will never go back to the beginning.


Write to your body. Find the gratitude for all parts of you, starting with your head and working your way down to your toes.

Write about where you hold tension in your body. What is a word, phrase, or mantra that will remind you to breathe space into it?

Dance. Do Yoga. Meditate.

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