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Dealing with Trauma Caused by Sexual Abuse

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 73 seconds someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. Every nine minutes, one of the victims is a child.  One of out every six women and one out of every 33 men has been the victim of a rape or attempted rape.  

When you’re the victim of a sexual assault, the lasting trauma can change the way you interact with other people, affect the decisions you make, and have a negative impact on your confidence and self-esteem. Our caring and skilled counselors at The Soho Center for Mental Health Counseling in New York City’s Greenwich Village, provide emotional support and highly customized psychotherapy as well as other affective therapies to help you recover from sexual abuse and move forward positively in your life. Here they offer guidance on how to cope with the trauma left behind after a sexual assault.

It isn’t your fault

When another person forces or coerces you into a sexual act that you don’t want, you may wonder if you “did something” that triggered the violence. You’re never responsible for another person’s actions toward you. Nobody has the right to hurt you or to touch you in a way that you don’t like, no matter how you’re dressed, how you act, or where you were. 

Victim blaming compounds the trauma of sexual abuse. If anyone suggests that the rape or attempted rape was somehow your fault, be sure to avoid that person and don’t internalize their message. Try to find someone in your inner circle whom you know and trust and confide in them so that you can start to get the support you need to ease toward recovery.

Treat yourself kindly

Any kind of assault on your person is not only physically draining and upsetting, but emotionally stressful, too. Sometimes, the assault may make you feel disassociated from your body; you might even blame your own body for the pain you’re feeling.  But more than ever, your body deserves extra love and care.  

Focus on the things you know that you enjoy and that make you feel healthy and strong. Or, if you didn’t have those things in your life before, what would you like them to be now?  You may find it helpful to engage in self-care activities, such as:

If you aren’t sure how to take care of yourself or if you find yourself drawn to destructive behaviors, such as using alcohol or drugs to dull your pain, contact us for an over-the-phone consultation.

Develop a safety plan

You may be afraid to go back to your normal routine, especially if the assault occurred as part of that routine. Find a buddy to walk or travel with, or schedule your events at times when you know other people are around. You can also vary your routine and the routes you use to get to work or the grocery store if you’re afraid that someone is watching or stalking you.

You may want to join a local support group that helps victims of sexual assault rebuild their lives. You can also find out where the nearest shelters and police stations are, in case you need to leave home or get help quickly.

Ask for help

At The Soho Center for Mental Health Counseling, our therapists help you process the complicated and upsetting feelings around your assault with talk therapy. But we also help you learn new strategies to help you handle those upsetting feelings and control your responses so that you stay safe and centered, emotionally and physically. Some therapies that may help you recover from sex abuse include:

If you’re struggling with the trauma left behind by sexual abuse, you can get help, support, and recovery strategies today. Use the online form, or call our friendly staff during office hours. We offer teletherapy and confidential and affordable video/phone consultations.

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