Dealing with the Trauma of a Sexual Assault

Dealing with the Trauma of a Sexual Assault

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In life, there are many things we must deal with. Some of these things are easy, and for some people, there are issues that are much more difficult. Everyone deals with these issues in different ways. For instance, while there are similarities in the behaviors of sexual assault victims, each victim has their own way of dealing with the trauma and after effects. Some need to seek out professional help, while others are able to deal with it on their own. No matter how on deals with the trauma of a sexual assault, the memories are there forever.

The 3 Phases of Rape Trauma

There are three phases of rape trauma. The first is the acute phase, which is immediately after the assault, and can last days to many weeks. The second phase is the outward adjustment phase, where the victim acts like life is normal, but inside they are falling apart. The third phase of rape trauma is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can include showing symptoms of intense fear, experiencing flashbacks, avoiding situations that trigger memories of the assault, and showing a great deal of distress because of the assault. Symptoms of the third phase include hyper vigilance and difficulty sleeping. In order to deal with the three phases of trauma, it is important to start getting serious about self-care.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is taking the steps necessary to be able to live a healthy and comfortable life, even with the memories of a sexual assault. Victims need to take care of themselves, making sure that not only their minds, but their bodies are healthy and strong. The healthier one is, the easier it is going to be to deal with this type of trauma. When one is in poor health, the depression that can come from the trauma can lead to a number of health issues. Victims need to make sure that they are following a healthy, well-balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise (this also helps to clear the mind), and get into regular, healthy routines. All of this involves getting in tune with one’s self, and learning how to heal both the mind and the body.

Coping Strategies

In addition to self-care, it is important for victims of sexual assault to learn about coping strategies that are going to help them be able to better deal with what has happened to them. These strategies can be as simple as taking a hot bath to relax, or creating an entire support system of people who victims can reach out to and connect with (particularly other victims of similar crimes). Other coping strategies include:

  1. Talking about the assault with listeners who are empathic
  2. Crying
  3. Exercising (cycling, walking, running, aerobics, etc.)
  4. Relaxation exercises (yoga, stretching, etc.)
  5. Laughing (watch a funny movie)
  6. Praying and meditation (listening to a guided imagery CD, deep muscle relaxation, etc.)
  7. Enjoying music and art
  8. Getting plenty of sleep and eating properly
  9. Not using stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and sugar
  10. Hugs (from loved ones, including pets)
  11. Committing to something that the victim feels strongly about
  12. Eating certain foods that are tryptophane activators (warm turkey, baked potatoes, creamy soups, etc.)
  13. Getting involved with a community activity or volunteer organization
  14. Keeping a journal and writing about the experience in detail, including feelings about the experience

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a sexual assault, don’t wait until it is too late to get help. This is an event that can and does stay with victims for the remainder of their lives, but it doesn’t have to cripple them. Talk to someone, and get the help you need, or help someone else who has been through it and needs you.

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