Are You Feeling Lost Because Someone You Love Been Sexually Assaulted?
If you've made your way to this webpage it's likely for just that reason. You're not alone. Everyone knows someone who has been sexually assaulted. Not only is your loved one hurting, but you're possibly feeling lost as to how to help them. On top of all that, You're Hurting Too.
There's no reason to feel alone.
Because sexual assaults are chronically underreported it is almost impossible to have accurate statistics on this epidemic. The most conservative estimates predict that in the United States approximately:
1 in 5
cis-gendered* women and girls
1 in 11
cis-gendered men and boys
1 in 2
4 in 5
people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
Bigger Than We Realize
These percentages are much higher when we account for all forms of unwanted sexual contact such as being groped, grabbed, slapped, pinched, kissed, hugged, rubbed or any number of other physical boundary violations.
This percentage gets even bigger when we account for folks who have been sexually harassed. That is a tremendous amount of people who have experienced sexual violence. And the number of people impacted grows astronomically when we factor in all the loved ones that each survivor has.
Parents, romantic partners, children, friends, and even coworkers are impacted too. In fact, next to war, sexual assault is the longest running epidemic in human history! You're not alone in this
“Which reality should we focus on? Should we focus on the trauma itself? Should we focus on the heroism of [adults] and children who continue to struggle? Should we focus on the economic, environmental, and political practices, past and present, that have created conditions in which violence and destruction thrive? Or should we focus on the amazing capacity of humans to survive, help, love, repent? If we choose wrong—or, worse yet, if our attention strays—how much more suffering will go unnoticed” ― Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky
The Impacts Of Sexual Assault Can Be Staggering
You've potentially noticed several changes in your loved one. Perhaps they've withdrawn from friends and family, stopped going to work or school, begun lashing out in anger or crying unexpectedly, stopped taking care of themselves, stopped engaging in sexual activity or even begun self-harming. All of these things and more are natural parts of having experienced trauma in general, and sexual assault in particular. No part of our lives are immune from the impact of sexual violence.
Harmful Coping Strategies
The Symptoms Of Trauma Can Take Many Forms
These symptoms don't just appear in your loved one who was sexually assaulted. It is extremely likely that you're experiencing at least some of these trauma symptoms too. This is called secondary or vicarious trauma, and it is completely normal and expected. You're not alone in this, and help is available.
If you recognize yourself in any of the trauma symptoms listed above, perhaps it's time to start healing from your secondary trauma and reach out for support.
If you're constantly replaying everything in your head to see how you could have protected them,
know that it wasn't your fault.
If you're feeling overwhelmed with all the changes and challenges your loved one is coping with,
know that support is out there and that you don't have to go this alone (neither do they).
If you've loved one's sexual assault experience has reopened old and painful memories from your own sexual assault,
know that healing is absolutely still possible. I'm here to help.
You don't have to be solely responsible for your loved one's healing process. You do however, have to be responsible for you own healing.
You don't deserve sleepless nights. You don't have to jump every time the phone rings expecting more bad news. You don't have to suffer in silence, being unable to talk to anyone else about your loved one's sexual assault. You don't have to beat yourself up for not protecting them from harm. You don't have to isolate yourself, sink in to depression, miss work, lose connection with friends, and stop making time for your passions, hobbies, and self-care.
Not having an infinite capacity to support your loved one, and not being able to heal them, are not failings. You don't have to feel guilty that you're struggling with secondary trauma - it's ok that you've been impacted. It's proof of how much you care.
Make A Change
Seeking support from a certified therapist can be a powerful step in processing through the grief and pain of secondary trauma. I know just how important the role of supportive friends and family is to someone whose experienced an assault. And I also know how difficult it can feel to be that supportive person. Taking time to care for yourself is not taking time away from caring for your loved one. In fact, the more you heal from your own secondary trauma, the more capacity you have to help take care of the person you love.
The work I do with folks struggling with secondary trauma is so effective because we're constantly focused on the two biggest things you're truly needing. I can 1) help you process through and validate your own experiences of this terrible event so that you can heal and take care of yourself. And 2) I will help you to develop real skills to effectively support your loved one.
The impact of sexual violence is far reaching. The pain of secondary trauma is real. Healing is not always smooth or easy, but it is absolutely possible. You and your loved one are completely capable of finding the healing you deserve.
I'm here to help. Whether you're looking for your own support or helping your loved one to find their own therapist, please reach out. Lets start with a free 30 minute in-person consultation.
* The term Cis-Gender refers to someone who was assigned a gender at birth, and as an adult still identifies with that gender.
Always Remember That Healing Is Possible
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