How to Heal From Sexual Assault
Every 73 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S., which means it’s likely that you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence (NSVRC, 2020). It is so hard to talk about sexual assault; how the first person whom survivors disclose to end up reacting can have a HUGE effect on their healing process.
It sounds scary, but working with a therapist can help you deal with any challenges you may be facing, sexual assault-related or not. The purpose is to provide you with an open, non-judgemental space to work through problems or challenges. You learn new coping skills, ways to deal with feelings, strategies for managing stress, and so much more. It gives you a space to explore thoughts and feelings you might not feel comfortable saying out loud to anyone else.
A good first step is to call your insurance company to find which therapy providers in your area are covered by your insurance plan; you can also do this online through their website. Many campus counseling centers offer free services for students with or without insurance if you are a student. You can also find support from other local resources, such as a community service or faith-based organization.
Telling Loved Ones If you’re considering telling someone about what happened, we have included a few questions to ask yourself beforehand, tips to help prepare, and how others may react. First, telling someone about your sexual assault is 100% up to you. Each person’s story and healing journey are unique; it is completely up to you whether you disclose to someone or not AND how much or how little you tell.
How should you tell someone? RAINN (2021) suggests deciding the following before disclosing:
What are you sharing and how much will you share - “I wanted to tell you this happened to me but I don’t feel comfortable sharing any more details today.” or will you answer all their questions?
Who will you tell - do you think they will react in a supportive way, do they know the perpetrator in a way that may affect their reaction, or have they shared a similar experience?
When will you talk to them - you should plan ahead and make sure they give you their full attention and also have time to process what you’ve shared.
Where will you talk to them - if you feel safe with the person, should you talk privately? Or will they possibly become angry so you should talk in a public area?
How will you talk to them - should you talk in-person, over the phone, through a video chat, or in the form of a letter?
You deserve to be listened to and supported, however, the conversation will most likely not go the way you hoped. Someone may not know how to react, even if they have great intentions. The person you speak to may feel angry towards the perpetrator, confused about how to support you, fear that it may happen again, frustration that they were powerless, guilt that they didn’t prevent it from happening, or shock that someone they care about has experienced this trauma.
Self-Care After Trauma
Whether this trauma happened recently or years ago, self-care can help you cope with short-term and long-term effects. Self-care isn’t always easy to take on. Slowly build up a physical and emotional routine that makes you feel strong in all ways.
Physical Self-Care - keep your body healthy and strong! Think about a time when you felt physically healthy; ask yourself how were you sleeping, what types of food were you eating, did you perform certain routines?
Emotional Self-Care - the key here is to be in tune with yourself. Think about when you last felt balanced and grounded; what activities did you enjoy, did you keep a journal, was mediation part of your schedule, who did you spend time with, where did you spend that time?
Seeking Help in the Deaf Community
The Deaf community faces unique barriers in healing from sexual assault. One unique barrier is that they do not have the same opportunities as hearing people do to acquire information. Hearing individuals receive an enormous amount of information through incidental learning -which occurs by means of conversation, books, and television
Research shows that Deaf individuals experience profound isolation and a lack of options in seeking help. They often cannot count on hearing service agencies to know what to do with a TTY, even though they have the number advertised or how to handle a video relay call. The alternative option of relying on interpreters means giving up privacy and sharing intimate details with a stranger.
Deaf individuals face what researchers call “myth-conceptions” in society. This includes things such as the belief that deaf individuals are eternal children and asexual. Society is not always informed about the Deaf community. This leads to hearing individuals believing these “myth-conceptions” and having huge implications for the resources available to the Deaf community.
“Deaf people have been virtually excluded from our mental health care system due to bias, lack of
knowledge and skills by professionals and significant language/communication barriers” (Obinna, 2006).
Online Support (Information is taken from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2021)
You may not feel comfortable talking to someone close to you or a therapist. Here are some resources for survivors that can help you:
Your local sexual assault resource center - these centers can help survivors of abuse no matter when it occurred or if a police report was filed. This directory can help you find your local center.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) - RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline where volunteers offer support 24/7. Whether you need support, advice, or a referral, you can contact them at 800-656-HOPE or chat online.
Message boards, forums, and groups - survivors are connecting online in communities such as subreddits where they are sharing stories. This is a less formal form of support, however it can be a great place to talk to others who have experienced similar traumas.
For Deaf individuals - Our crisis hotline is available Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm. We can provide you with immediate crisis counseling and support to those with hearing loss who are survivors, their family, and friends. Call for an urgent situation or more information; visit our website at thrivetogethertoday.org to get started.
Additionally, the Deaf hotline offers safe, confidential advocacy services for Deaf survivors. They provide advocacy for Deaf people through email, live chat, and video phone at this website.
At Thrive Together, we work to help improve the lives of individuals with hearing loss. We offer a variety of services that include but are not limited to, a crisis hotline, advocacy, and peer support. We strive to help individuals THRIVE. Thrive Together empowers the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind to end domestic violence and sexual assault within their respective communities.
National Sexual Violence Resource Center. (2020, April 28). Healing from Sexual Violence: How Friends and Family Can Help. Medium. https://medium.com/sexual-assault-awareness-month-2020/heali ng-from-sexual-violence-how-friends-and-family-can-help-a4e96b1dfa60
National Sexual Violence Resource Center. (2021). SAAM 2021 Survivor Resources. National Sexual Violence Resource Center. https://www.nsvrc.org/saam/2021/survivorresources
Obinna, J., Krueger, S., Osterbaan, C., Sadusky, J., & DeVore, W. (2006, February). Understanding the Needs of the Victims of Sexual Assault in the Deaf Community (No. 212867). Council on Crime and Justice. https://praxisinternational.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/IATA-Needs-Assessment-and-Safety- Accountability-Audit-for-Deaf-Survivors.pdf
RAINN. (2021). Recovering from Sexual Violence | RAINN. Rainn.Org. https://www.rainn.org/recovering-sexual-violence