Sexual abuse has both physical and psychological consequences. When you've been sexually abused — whether you were a child or an adult — the scars remain with you throughout your lifetime.
In the United States, more than half of women and a third of men report having been sexually abused at some point in their lives. One in five women experienced a complete or attempted rape.
One in three females and one in four males experienced a completed or attempted rape for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17. About 9.2% of children are sexually abused each year.
You may have been abused by a family member, a teacher, a friend, or a lover. In every case, sexual abuse is a violation of your body and also of your psyche. It affects the way you feel physically, emotionally, and mentally. Sexual abuse can also have consequences such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), pregnancy (for women), and physical trauma.
A history of sexual abuse may lead you to try to cope with your anger and distress in ways that are hurtful, rather than helpful. It isn’t uncommon for victims of sexual abuse to try to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, or to engage in risky or impulsive behaviors.
Our team of experts at The Soho Center for Mental Health specialize in helping people of all ages, backgrounds, and genders recover from sexual abuse. At our offices in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York City, and through secure tele-therapy, we customize a treatment plan based on your unique history and needs.
All sexual abuse is traumatic. But, with help and guidance, you can learn to process the trauma and find new ways of coping that allow you to feel safe in the world again.
Your treatment begins with an in-depth assessment from one of our caring and sensitive counselors. During this consultation, we learn more about you, the events surrounding the abuse or multiple episodes of abuse, and your physical and emotional symptoms.
We discuss how the abuse changed the way you feel about yourself and about the world around you. During a series of weekly sessions, you and your therapist explore your memories, emotions, and symptoms, and how they affect your everyday behaviors and choices.
You may learn to reframe your thoughts and self-talk through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches you to recognize negative thoughts and replace them with more helpful ones.
Over time, you learn to accept your emotions and make decisions about how to respond to them. You also learn new strategies for coping so that you aren’t at the mercy of your past experiences.
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT that’s especially effective for working through trauma, such as sexual abuse. With DBT, you learn new skills to manage painful emotions and memories. The four skill areas are:
- Mindfulness — keeping focused on the present, not the past
- Distress tolerance — accepting, rather than avoiding, negative emotions
- Emotional regulation — managing and changing intense emotions that cause problems in your life
- Interpersonal effectiveness — learning to communicate assertively while respecting your own boundaries
Through DBT, you learn to change from an either-or black-and-white type of thinking to one that’s more balanced. The aim of DBT is to learn both to accept the past and the present and to make changes that benefit you now and in the future.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a unique therapeutic approach that alleviates the psychological distress of trauma through eight phases of treatment. Unlike talk therapies, EMDR is fast-acting. Up to 90% of people who’ve experienced a single trauma no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after just three 90-minute EMDR sessions.
With EMDR, you talk through the traumatic event. However, you make distinct eye movements while doing so. The eye movements signal your brain that you’re in a safe environment. The eye movement also coincides with movements your eyes make during rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage in which you dream and process memories.
Depending on your situation, you may benefit from one or all types of therapies to recover your sense of trust and safety again. Start on your journey toward recovery from sexual abuse by contacting our team for an in-depth consultation and customized treatment today. We’re also pleased to offer teletherapy via a secure online portal.