Episode 123: "Do people ever heal from sexual assault?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about healing from sexual assault.
This is Jessica Skultety, Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, do people ever heal from sexual assault?”
Yes. Healing is different for every survivor of sexual assault, and it can take different amounts of time, too.
Some people develop symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, and have trouble trusting others in future relationships. If you or a friend thinks they might be experiencing PTSD, speak with a trusted adult to connect with resources for evaluation and treatment by a mental health professional. A professional, trained counselor can help once someone is diagnosed. The key is to find a person who works with survivors and is trained to treat PTSD. For example, at Safe+Sound Somerset, we offer many forms of counseling for free, including PTSD treatment for children, teens, and adults who have witnessed or experienced sexual or domestic violence.
Trauma never goes away completely. Healing isn’t about forgetting what happened, or going back to what you used to be. It’s about saying, “Yes, this happened to me and it impacts me, but I have the tools and support to cope with it.” Healing means healthfully combining what happened to me into my understanding of who I am now. It’s about recalibrating or readjusting expectations. If you want to be the old you, that will never happen, because the “you” who has healed from trauma is still going to be different than the “you” before.
For some survivors, the initial shock and impact of the assault lessens over time, where they can’t forget that it happened, but they can move forward. Some people find support from other survivors. They might spend time with loved ones or do things that they enjoy. Some survivors even reach a place of healing where they decide to volunteer or work at a sexual violence agency, to support other survivors.
Here are some tips for working healing into your life:
1. Remind yourself that you are a person of value, who is important to the world. You did not cause the violence. You deserve to heal and have a safe, happy future.
2. Find a hobby or practice that you enjoy, that you can do when you feel upset or need a break. Like we said before, you can also reach out to friends and family and spend time with them. They don’t even need to know your story or what happened to you, to play a role in your healing. Though, if you want to trust in them and tell them, they could also check in on you and listen to you.
3. Practice mindfulness throughout the day and take breaks from your normal daily activities. This is a way of spending time in the “here and now” or the current moment, instead of spending time thinking about what happened before. Mindfulness can look like: taking deep breaths and focusing on your senses (what do you hear right now? What do you see?). Meditation is a form of mindfulness that works for some. You could practice yoga or light stretching to focus on how your body moves. We recorded an episode all about mindfulness back after episode 3. The episode is called “Ask Ava+ COVID-19: Mindfulness Activities.” Check it out!
To finish up today – remember that you are more than what happened to you, and you deserve good things in your life.
To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.