Therapy for Sexual Abuse
exual abuse is one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can go through. You may feel like the recovery process is a never-ending uphill climb or like the trauma will follow you forever. However, healing and moving forward after sexual abuse is possible, especially with help from a mental health professional.
Sexual abuse is often considered a taboo topic. Many people hesitate to speak up about it for fear of being judged or scrutinized. The truth is, though, that there are far more survivors of abuse and assault than you may think. According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, almost 16 percent of women and 3 percent of men have been the victims of rape, and more than one in five women become victims of sexual assault.
Being sexually assaulted or abused can bring on numerous consequences for the victim, including disorders such as PTSD, Anxiety, and Major Depressive Disorder. Working with the right therapist can help minimize the impacts of the aftermath of your assault, and help work towards healthy coping and healing.
Therapy for Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is horrifically common, so you should know that you’re not alone. Approximately 81 percent of women have been sexually harassed in the workplace. In recent years, the #MeToo movement called attention to prevalence of abuse, assault, and harassment.
With workplace harassment, the assaulter generally has power and status, making decisions about how to handle the assault even more complex. Distress over deciding whether or not to report the assault is extremely common. Many people who experience workplace harassment become afraid of retaliation or repercussions that may come such as losing their job, or fear they might not be able to obtain future employment after they report.
Many survivors in the #MeToo Movement used social media as a platform to share their stories and advocate for change. While some people feel liberated by talking about their experiences, you don’t have to make a public statement to heal from your trauma. What’s most important is that you take the steps that help you recover. Therapy is an excellent environment to begin the healing process.
Effects of Sexual Abuse on Mental Health
Everyone’s experiences with abuse and the aftermath look different. Recovering from abuse is rarely a simple, linear journey, and all survivors have different emotional struggles and triggers. Remember that any thoughts or feelings that you experience proceeding your trauma are valid.
Some of the most common feelings after a sexual assault are shame and guilt. You may blame yourself for the trauma, or replay intrusive thoughts about all of the ways you may have avoided the situation. Abuse is never the fault of the victim, though, regardless of your choices or actions. Overcoming guilt and shame can be difficult, but it’s an important step toward healing.
Sometimes, survivors feel guilty about how much their trauma affects them. You may criticize yourself, saying something like, “Just get over it already.” Other times, survivors feel bad for feeling numb. If you’ve blocked out most of the trauma or are trying to avoid thinking about it, you may be scared for the day that you have to acknowledge and work through it.
Coping mechanisms are very common in people who have survived sexual abuse. You might find yourself trying to numb your feelings with the following:
• Drug or alcohol abuse
• Avoiding leaving your home
• Excessive sleeping
• Compulsive spending
• Avoiding being alone
These behaviors may help avoid the pain for a little while, but they’ll have more harmful effects in the long-run. Abuse survivors are far more likely to struggle with addiction and substance abuse than the general population.
Sexual abuse can lead to a variety of mental health disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition that causes flashbacks, nightmares, and severe distress or anxiety. Navigating day-to-day life with untreated PTSD can be incredibly difficult, so if you’re experiencing these symptoms, consider working through them in therapy.
Anxiety is also closely associated with abuse. You may be intensely afraid of another assault, which could lead to panic attacks or difficulty leaving your home.
Many survivors experience depression, too. Some of the most common symptoms of depression following abuse include feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation, and reduced sense of self-worth. These symptoms may come and go, or they may persist for a long time after the abuse.
Overcome Your Trauma and Find Freedom
Sexual assault and abuse has lasting psychological impacts, and it can affect your relationships, career, and ability to engage in self-care. Help is available, though, and you don’t have to deal with these challenges on your own.
Reaching out for help is a powerful step in the recovery process. You could seek support from a close friend or family member, or you could work with a therapist to address your experiences in a private environment.
Therapy can be a valuable resource for anyone recovering from abuse. Fear of judgment is often the reason survivors don’t ask for help, but therapists are trained to be unbiased figures. They’re here to create a supportive space for you to process your trauma. Everything you say in a therapy session is confidential, so you can speak openly about your experiences without worrying about gossip or criticism.
You have the strength and resilience to overcome the traumatic events from your past. Recovery is difficult, but you can take back your freedom and live a happy, healthy life that is not ruled by your abuse.
What to Expect During Therapy for Sexual Abuse
As you begin your therapy journey, search for a counselor who specializes in therapy for sexual abuse. While all licensed therapists are knowledgeable about trauma, some are more experienced than others when it comes to addressing abuse and assault.
It might take a few tries to find a counselor who’s the right fit for you. This is normal, so try not to feel guilty or frustrated if you meet with several therapists before sticking with one. Speaking about your abuse can make you feel very vulnerable, so it’s important that you work with someone you feel comfortable with.
Therapy can help you release bottled-up thoughts and feelings regarding your traumatic experiences. Your therapist will encourage you to express any emotions you have felt or are currently feeling. You can speak about the abuse as openly as you think is helpful. Your counselor may ask questions about the events so that they can better support and understand you. However, they won’t force you to disclose anything that you’re not ready to speak about.
Your therapist may recommend techniques that you can use outside of the counseling session to express your emotions. This could include journaling, drawing, exercising, or any other healthy activities that provide a release from difficult thoughts or feelings.
Therapy is more than just an opportunity to purge your emotions, though. The other major component of therapy for sexual abuse is developing coping skills that help you manage the day-to-day challenges that may arise. You and your therapist will identify triggers that spark anxiety, anger, or other negative emotions. Then, you’ll work together to find the best ways to handle those triggers when you encounter them.
Sexual abuse treatment can take a long time, but counseling is highly effective. The trauma may always be a part of your life, but you can learn how to keep the painful emotions at bay. The abuse you experienced was out of your control, but now, you have the power to take back that control and find peace and happiness.
Beverly Hills Therapy Group provides counseling to individuals who are recovering from abuse and trauma. If you’re looking for a sexual abuse therapist in Beverly Hills, contact us today to learn more about our services.