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Sexual violence and trauma

What is the impact of sexual violence?

Sexual violence. Sexual abuse. Rape. Words that we don’t want to hear, but in reality, effect many more than is spoken about. There are assumptions about how a person will react after experiencing an assault, that that person must be broken, have severe injuries, never want to have sex again and fall into an obvious depression and completely collapse. While this may be true in some cases, the reality is that the actual responses are vastly varied.

There is also an assumption that a victim of sexual assault must have fought back, or must have said no. The reality is that people respond to danger in different ways. Often, the fight, flight, freeze or fawn instinct kicks in. Yes, it’s true some may try and fight, but there are times when this is likely to make the situation more dangerous. Some try to flee the danger, pretend it isn’t there and remove themselves from the situation. Some fawn, which is to say sometimes it is safer for that person to make the assailant think that they don’t object to their actions, because to say ‘no’ may make escalate the danger. Some people completely freeze up – they are unable to move or say anything.

Any of these reactions can ignite intense and unexpected feelings and responses, ranging from anxiety and depression, to reliving the trauma itself, to avoiding thinking about it altogether, to feelings of low self-worth or feelings of shame or guilt, to engaging in risky or promiscuous behaviours or the opposite and avoiding sexual contact at all costs. There is no right or wrong way to respond to this situation, but understanding yourself and how to manage yourself to work towards recovery is possible.

How can therapy help?

Working with your therapist, being able to process and navigate the traumatic experience(s). Using trauma focused approaches and techniques can lessen the impact on your life and help work towards recovery, whatever that looks like to you. It can help with painful memories, negative thought processes, negative self-perceptions and unhelpful behaviours. With therapy, you can challenge the impacts that sexual violence has had in different areas of your life and work towards regaining control. Your therapist will take you through techniques, listen and understand you.

If you feel that you are ready to start your recovery, please get in touch. We will then be able to work together to provide a treatment plan that is tailored to you and your needs.

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