You’re Not Alone:  How to Heal from Sexual Trauma with Therapy

In this post I write about three steps you can take to heal from sexual trauma along with offering some education about how survivors are impacted through their traumatic experience. 

Speak Shame

I am regularly asked by clients questions about how to heal from sexual trauma.  Although every path is as unique as the person, there are several steps I encourage along the path of recovery.  One of the first steps is to acknowledge what happened through talking, art therapy, music, or silent processing while we are Brainspotting therapy.  

The acknowledgement can be difficult because of the shame that is so insidious with sexual trauma.  Many victims believe that what happened was their fault.  They say things like they should have known not to be alone with their attacker, that they shouldn’t have dressed a certain way, or that they deserved what happened because they were drinking alcohol.  What’s worse is when victims are actually blamed by family members, peers, or lawyers in courtrooms. Acknowledging what happened to you in the presence of people who care about you helps the truth begin to sink in on a deeper level. What happened was NOT YOUR FAULT.  

The shame around sexual trauma keeps victims silent which is EXACTLY what perpetrators want from their victims whether the perpetrator is a single person, a group, or a system that perpetuates sexual violence.  Processing what happened to us (along with our feelings of shame) invites it in the room and out of the shadows so that we can work with it.  This can be a tender process and processing what happened may take some time if you are still feeling overwhelmed.  Remember that every step counts. 

Connect With Other Survivors

Sexual trauma therapy involves reminding the survivor that they are not alone.  You may have  felt alone when you were hurt whether you were sexually assaulted as an adult or a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.  Because sexual abuse trauma and other types of sexual trauma tend to be isolating experiences, we need to connect to others in order to heal.  Being with other survivors reminds us that although we were alone when we were hurt we are not alone in our recovery.  Finding the corrective experience is a foundational part of trauma healing and integration. 

Having led sexual trauma survivor support groups for years I can tell you first hand how powerful it is be with other people who get your experience but sadly you do not have to be in a support group to find others out there.  There are countless victims.  For information about survivor groups in your area contact the Victim Connect Resource Center by phone or text at 1-855-4VICTIM (855-484-2846) or by following this link: 

https://victimconnect.org/resources/national-hotlines/

Talk to a Therapist

When I am asked about how to overcome sexual trauma I remind people that we can’t heal in isolation and may need someone who is experienced in working with other survivors to help us sort out the aftermath of sexual assault and/or sexual abuse trauma. A therapist who understands both perpetrator and victim thinking can be particularly helpful in helping someone understand the trauma experience and how to heal from it.  A therapist can also help with basic definitions and answer questions.  Here are a few questions I have been asked:

What is considered sex trauma?  Sexual trauma involves any experience where the victim’s emotional, mental, and/or physical boundaries have been violated due to exposure to inappropriate sexual behaviors.  The belief that a survivor has to be able to say “no” is not always the case for a victim due to the victim being unresponsive, threatened, bullied, or unable to say no to inappropriate sexual behaviors for other reasons (such as is the case oftentimes for young victims who cannot developmentally say no to teen/adult perpetrators). 

Is hypersexuality only caused by trauma?  Although the addiction model can explain hypersexuality (particularly when the person has addictive tendencies) all of my clients dealing with hypersexuality have had past trauma.

Can sex therapist help with trauma? A sex therapist can help with trauma if they understand sexual trauma, activation, and trauma’s impact on sexuality.  

As a therapist and survivor of sexual trauma, I help my clients process their experience and learn coping strategies to manage symptoms and process their sexual trauma.  What happened to you matters and your experience is valid.  I can help you make sense of what happened, restore hope, and heal.  Recovery is possible. For more information, or to book your free consultation click here. You are not alone.

Speak Your Mind

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