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| by Farida Abdel Malek

How to Deal With Sexual Assault Trauma and Stop Self Blame

When you've been through something this scarring and traumatic, it's hard to find the right words, it's hard to find the right thing to say and it's hard to find the right way to help, because let's face it...No two are the same, no two experiences are the same and everyone feels things, process things and heals from things differently. 

There is however one thing, that you could say is essential for all victims of sexual assault, harassment and rape to know...which is you're not alone. You may feel alone. You may have experienced this alone. But in your process of healing and recovery, you are most definitely not alone. Millions of women and even men have unfortunately been victims to this horrible crime and people around the world have tried to find ways to help with the recovery and healing process. 

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Effects of sexual assault:

These are symptoms but they don't have to be your reality and they don't define who you are. You're not losing your mind, this is more than normal considering what you've been through. You can heal, get back your feeling of self worth, trust again and feel safe, it just needs a bit of time and healing. 

Unfortunately PTSD is common after experiencing sexual harassment, assault or rape. It becomes hard for you to trust others. You feel shame, become scared and flashbacks of these scarring memories get triggered easily. Many women struggle with self worth and self blame. It starts affecting their relationships, sex life, making intimacy hard. Some women also suffer from severe anxiety and depression. 

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How to deal with the trauma of sexual harassment, assault and rape:

Denial

This is absolutely normal. Our mind and bodies tend to repress things and traumas that are too painful to live with. So, we unconsciously forget them or believe that they never happened. And even though it sounds comforting to forget these horrible memories, it does have a subconscious effect on our daily life and the after effects don't completely go away, just because the memory did.

That's why with therapy, it's often important for the counselor of therapist to dig deep and uncover past trauma because acknowledging what happened is how you can start to heal. It is a very painful process that gets really hard and a lot harder before it gets better, but it is important to face what happened and admit it in order to start moving on from it.

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Talk about it

Therapy is not an easy step to take. There are a lot of concerns when it comes to therapy, especially with an issue like this. So it's important to know that it's okay if you're unable to take this step. However, you should try as much as you can to just talk about it, to anyone you trust. Not talking about it or avoiding it will making healing harder. It's important to admit and talk to someone so you can destroy that feeling of shame and being alone. It's huge baggage that needs to be let off your chest. 

However, it's hard to find the right person to talk to and it's hard to talk in the first place. So try to find someone you know will comfort you and understand, not judge and blame. Someone who's empathetic and emotionally intelligent. If talking to someone you know is too much, you can then try therapy and support groups. It might seem like a harder step, but some people finding the idea of talking to strangers a lot more doable and comforting. 

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The Memories

Sexual assault victims want the memories to just go away and disappear because they're too painful and because you wish you would have done things differently. However, it is important for you to make peace with yourself and tell yourself that you did all that you can do, and no one should expect anything from you. This is a traumatic experience for human beings and just like there's a flight and fight response, there's also freeze. 

Sometimes women in the moment are unable to even move their pinky, let alone open their mouths or fight off someone. Your body and mind goes into shock and there's nothing you could have done differenly. DO NOT blame yourself. These traumatic memories can be triggered by certain events or moments in your life that can cause a lot of stress, panic and anxiety. Try to remind yourself that you're safe right now, this is a trigger, a memory and not your reality right now. Practice breathing exercises or any steps you practiced with your therapist. 

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This is isn't weakness it's strength

The word victim is often associated with weakness and vulnerability. You might feel weak now, but it is important to remind yourself that going through what you went through and being able to function and stand on your feet...that alone, takes an immense amount of strength. You might feel like you're weak because of the after effects of your trauma or because you're unable to talk about it and speak up or that you didn't stand up to him. But it is crucial for you to know and remind yourself that this is no where near weakness. 

He is the weak the one. You are stronger than you think and you are capable of doing things you never knew possible. You will learn a lot from this and you need to be kind to yourself and give yourself time to heal and recover in your own way and on your own time. It is absolutely okay. No one can tell you it's not and no should be pressuring you to deal with things a certain way. 

Things you need to stop saying to yourself, if you're a victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape:

1. It's my fault.

2. I should have known.

3. I should have listened to my friends or parents that he was bad news.

4. I shouldn't have worn that outfit.

5. I should have said no.

6. I shouldn't have smiled, held his hand, hugged or kissed him.

7. I triggered him, enticed him, flirted with him.

8. I should have never went to this place.

9. I should have never had that drink.

10. I should never trust anyone ever again.

11. This is what I get for meeting him alone. 

12. I should have fought back. 

13. He liked me and he thought I wanted it too.

14. I gave him mixed signals.

15. He didn't mean it. 

16. No one is going to want to touch me or love me ever again.

17. I'm tainted, impure and damaged goods. 

18. We've had sex before, so it's not rape. (Even husbands can rape their wives. If you don't want it and they force themselves on you, it's rape, no matter what happened in the past or what kind of relationship you have)

19. I'm weak. That's why this happened. 

20. I'm a shame to my family and future kids.

21. I will never enjoy sex again. (You can heal and recover, many women have.)

NOTHING, nothing in the world excuses this crime. Nothing you did gave this person the right to do so. You have absolutely nothing to blame yourself for. This person did a crime and who you are, what you did or what you wore had nothing to do with his actions. You are NOT to blame. Never. 

Main Image Credits: Taryn Elliott from Pexels


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Tags: Sexual harassment  Arab women  Violence against women  Women  Women empowerment  Women rights  Therapy  Mental health