Sexual trauma appears in many forms. Each survivor’s experience is unique and sexual trauma can be world-shattering. And difficult to talk about, even with trusted loved ones. While it isn’t easy to discuss, and we can struggle with painful memories and devastating triggers, trauma therapy can help us manage difficult feelings that arise from sexual traumas. We might feel alone, isolated, traumatized, and struggle with other difficult feelings. Though it can be difficult to reach out or begin processing our feelings, trauma therapy can help us process our feelings and work towards healing at our own pace.
Sexual trauma doesn’t look the same for everyone. For many people, this can be an isolating part of their experiences. It can feel like nobody will ever understand your unique experiences and that can make it even harder to open up about trauma. Sexual Assault and abuse can take many forms, and it isn’t always immediately apparent to others or even us when what happened to us was sexual assault or abuse.
Types Of Sexual Assault
Sexual assault can be any form of sexual contact made without your consent. This can take many forms, and it may look different to each individual survivor. There are several types of sexual assault.
Rape And Attempted Rape
Sex without consent is rape. Consent can be withdrawn any time during sexual acts, and consent must be given neither under duress nor while incapacitated. Unfortunately, in our society, it isn’t nearly as uncommon as one might think or hope. In the United States, an estimated 1 in 5 women have experienced either rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. While women are much more likely to be survivors of rape or attempted rape, it also happens to men. An estimated 1 in 38 men have experienced either rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
Many survivors of rape and attempted rape struggle with Post Truamatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and other mental health struggles that can be difficult to overcome. Survivors also often struggle with anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, alcohol dependence, and other drug problems. It can be a debilitating trauma, and it isn’t uncommon for survivors to have trouble reaching out for help afterwards. Or to turn to self-medicating.
Other Sexual Assault
Rape and attempted rape are not the only forms of sexual assault. Sexual assault is any sexual contact without consent from both parties. This can be through groping, and any other form of unwanted contact. It can happen through the perpetrator engaging sexually with someone who is incapacitated, ignoring someone’s wishes, not taking “no” for an answer, or through coercion.
Unfortunately, sexual assault is also all-too-common in our society. And it can happen to anyone. According to data from the CDC, (Centers for Disease Control) an estimated more than 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 4 men experienced sexual violence including touching in their lifetime.
Sometimes, survivors of sexual assault feel difficult feelings of fear or shame, and might be unwilling to or scared to speak to others about their experiences. In light of the #metoo movement, we’ve also seen a disturbing trend of survivors who are fearful for their careers and scared that they’ll receive serious backlash for coming forward with their experiences. It’s entirely possible, and somewhat likely, that these numbers are lower than the actual amount of people who have experienced the trauma of unwanted sexual conact in their lifetime.
How Sexual Assault And Abuse Can Affect Our Mental Health
Sexual assault and abuse can happen to anyone. There is no single age group, gender identity group, ethnic group, socioeconomic status, or station in society where anyone is unaffected—though certain groups may be at a higher risk, such as young people and women.
Since no two people’s experiences with sexual trauma are the same, and it affects us all differently, everyone who has been subjected to sexual trauma has their own unique experiences and can be affected in their own ways. There is no one way to feel after a sexual trauma, and your feelings are natural. Feelings that arise after sexual trauma can be difficult to process and even more difficult to discuss with loved ones. It’s not uncommon to wonder if things could have gone differently, but I want to be very clear. What happened is not your fault, and nothing anybody can do ever warrants sexual assault. Ever.
It’s very common for survivors of sexual trauma to struggle with anxiety disorders, depression, thoughts of suicide, alcoholism, and other drug dependencies. On top of the initial trauma that survivors have experienced, there is also a struggle afterwards to cope with the fallout from other mental health problems that often arise afterwards—sometimes months or years later.
It’s normal to feel like nobody will ever understand exactly what you went through, and that’s because our traumas are unique to us. It can also feel like we will never be able to move on and that our lives will never be the same as before. But with trauma therapy, we can find a safe space to unravel our complex feelings and work through them at our own pace. It may be difficult for us to open up or admit, even to ourselves, how deeply we’re affected by trauma, but with a trauma therapist by our side, this process can become much easier.
How Trauma Therapy Can Help
If you’ve been struggling with the trauma and aftermath of a sexual trauma from sexual assault or sexual abuse, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Many of us have experienced some type of sexual trauma in our lifetimes, and it can be debilitating. Left untreated, these feelings will not go away, and they can get worse over time. We can find ourselves constantly in a state of panic and dysphoria. We might find it harder to trust strangers, and even harder to trust loved ones. We might find ourselves reliving some of our worst moments.
In trauma therapy, we can begin the process of healing, though. It’s never easy to talk about, but with a trauma specialist by our side, we can begin to build a safe space for ourselves where we can work through the ways we’ve been affected by our experiences and move forward with our lives.
After a sexual trauma, it’s perfectly normal to feel like we’re left a changed person. Sexual trauma can leave lasting scars. But we don’t have to go through this alone. It’s not easy reaching out, but it’s the first step we can take towards healing. It can be difficult to discuss our experiences and we might have trouble trusting anyone with our heaviest burdens.
But you’re not alone. We specialize in relationships and trauma, and we are here to help. If you’ve been struggling with feelings of trauma, anxiety, depression, loneliness, anger, or fear after a sexual trauma, we want to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out as soon as you’re ready.