Rape & Sexual Abuse: Road To Recovery

Rape & Sexual Abuse: Road To Recovery

Recovering from any form of sexual abuse is a very difficult and painful process, which takes a lot of time. However, recovery is very important so the survivor can regain their sense of control, heal and rebuild one’s sense of self-worth. Sexual abuse is one of the most rampant crimes in countries across the world. Even worse is the stigma and lack of empathy from society towards survivors.  Although women and children form a higher percentage of survivors, sexual abuse is not limited to just women and children; many men and boys also experience sexual abuse. 

Irrespective of sex, race or age, the effect of sexual abuse goes beyond the physical injuries suffered. The aftereffect of rape can be devastating, leaving a survivor feeling scared, ashamed, lonely and isolated with flashbacks and nightmares about the encounter. Survivors often lose their sense of security, trust in people and themselves and often time struggle with anxiety, depression or PTSD. 

Notwithstanding the flood of emotions you might have after having such experience, it is important to understand that those feelings of helplessness, shame, distrust, and self-blame are not your reality; they are simply a human reaction to an unpleasant experience. We have shared a few tips below to help survivors deal with the often devastating effects of sexual abuse. 

1. Talk about what happened to you

Although this might sound impracticable or extremely difficult; perhaps because you are scared that they won’t believe you or they will judge you or perceive you as weak and broken or solely because of the stigma the society attaches to survivors. It is also erroneous to think if you do not talk about an experience, then it did not happen; however, don’t forget that you cannot heal unless you are willing to confront the truth. 

In opening up about the experience you have had, you must speak to someone you trust. Opening up about what you have experienced is a positive step towards healing. 

2. Challenging Feelings of Guilt and Shame

Although you may be intuitively aware that rape of a sexual assault experience was not your fault, you may still struggle with a feeling of shame or guilt. These feelings may surface immediately following the rape/sexual assault or years after the attack. Feelings of shame and guilt often stem from misconceptions such as-

You could have stopped the assault from happening- this entails thoughts about what you did or did not do before, during and immediately after the assault. The truth is when you are in the midst of an assault, the body and brain are in shock and reactions may vary due to this shock. Do not judge yourself for your body’s natural reaction to trauma. 

You were not cautious enough or drunk or inappropriately dressed- irrespective of the circumstances, the only person responsible for rape or assault is the abuser. You did not consent nor deserve what has happened to you. 

You trusted a person when you shouldn’t have- this is the most difficult to deal with following assault by someone you thought you could trust. Do not beat yourself up about this, the perpetrator is the one meant to feel guilty and ashamed for the heinous crime they committed.  

3. Seek Medical Attention

This is very important after a sexual assault. It is important that you get a comprehensive examination to ensure there is no transmission of STDs, STIs or internal injuries. Also, the doctors can administer a rape kit, which entails the collection of relevant samples that can be used as evidence in prosecuting the culprit. You must do this medical screening immediately after the assault occurs; do not shower, drink or eat, go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, douche, or change your clothes, no matter how dirty or violating it may make you feel. 

4. Talk to a Therapist 

Getting professional help is important in dealing with the after-effects of sexual abuse. Therapy and Counseling sessions will help you will dealing with emotions, feelings and overall aftermath of a sexual assault experience. 

5. Anticipate and Prepare for Triggers

Identifying triggers and determining how to deal with them will help a go a long way in helping with the aftermath of sexual assault. 

6. Reporting to Law Enforcement Agencies

Rape and sexual assault is a crime and you have the right to report to the Police if you choose to. You can write a petition against the perpetrator or visit a police station to write a statement. Should you decide to report to the appropriate authorities, the rape kit, if administered immediately after the rape/assault occurred, will be very useful as prosecutorial evidence. 

7. Pray

Although you might be overwhelmed by a rush of emotions after experiencing rape or sexual assault, you must pray for grace and enablement to deal with the rush of emotions and move past the horrible experience. Psalm 55:22 says “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and he shall sustain thee; he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved”. 

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