The journey to healing after the traumatic experience of sexual assault and rape takes time and can include a multitude of hurdles along the way.
Remember, you do not owe anyone an explanation
Feelings of self-doubt and shame often occur and take over after experiencing rape or sexual assault. As we remain in a society that blames and questions victims, this can often make victims doubt their experience and fall into the patterns of self-blame. A lot of the time, these feelings end up silencing the survivor.
Remember, you have nothing to apologise for, you do not owe anyone an explanation.
It is usual for your physical health to change too
Survivors of rape often experience changes in their overall health. The mental strain of this trauma can begin to attack your body in various ways. Struggling to manage a healthy sleep routine and experiencing insomnia is very common. Many survivors often face struggles with eating disorders following the traumatic event.
It is important to listen to your body, value your needs, continue nourishing one’s body, and practice self-care. This is a very beneficial and important step in practicing healing.
Acknowledge your triggers and understand that this is an inevitable trauma outcome
After experiencing this trauma, many women experience nightmares as well as flashbacks. Your brain and body can be triggered by many things, such as:
Smells, dates, places, people, and even weather. Your body’s response to these triggers can often reel your body and mind into fight or flight mode. You can try and anticipate those triggers, and your body usually gives clues when you’re feeling anxious or unsafe (difficulty breathing, nausea, racing thoughts).
Reconnect with who you are
This can at first seem like a challenging process, but remember that healing is a unique process for each individual. There are various ways to reconnect to your body and mind, such as writing. Sometimes you need to talk to yourself first about your feelings. Opening up to someone else if you’re still processing your emotions can be incredibly overwhelming. Maybe the first time you “talk about it” is an unfiltered journaling session on your own.
Remember, it is not your fault
Repeat this to yourself as much as possible until it really sinks into your consciousness.
It is not your fault! What has happened to you does not define you. You are still you.
Talk to someone you trust and build your own support system
Opening up to someone else and sharing your personal experience with them can be one of the scariest steps. You will take this step at a time that feels right for you. Once you are ready, begin the journey of building your support system, which can be a friend or a family member.
You can also seek support from various organisations and foundations that offer free counseling. Those organisations have created a safe space for you to come to, where you can share, process, and understand what you truly need during your healing journey.
Be patient and take care of yourself
Know some days will be difficult; they will be challenging and overwhelming. It is okay for you to put your needs first and focus on acknowledging your health and allowing it to be your priority. Taking care of yourself may start with lots of rest, calming activities, and, most importantly, self-compassion. Be mindful, that healing comes with patience, it needs time, and each individual’s process looks different.
Be patient and kind to yourself as you navigate your journey. Healing is a unique process; allow yourself to feel you are worthy of finding peace within yourself. And remember it is okay to seek support and help in ways that feel best and most comfortable for you and to take things day by day.
You are not what happened to you; you are way more, you will see the light again, and you will find your power and newfound strengths on your own unique and individual journey of recovery and healing.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault and you need support, please reach out to the following: