There are many resources for those who have experienced sexual assault. You don’t have to go through recovery alone, and there are things you can do to heal emotionally.
Experiencing sexual assault can be traumatic and may feel isolating. Medical professionals and law enforcement might give you a list of resources for sexual assault, but many others are available. Whether your assault was recent or occurred many years ago, you’re not alone, and you can find resources to help you.
Treatment may be necessary for healing and processing your trauma. It can help you cope with your negative emotions and find beneficial ways to heal. Finding resources that work for you can make all the difference and help you find joy and peace in your life again.
Each state and territory in the United States has a coalition and support organizations for survivors of sexual assault. You can visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) to find the coalition in your area. These services are confidential, and while resources vary by location, they often include:
- support during medical exams and interviews with law enforcement
- education and further resources
The NSVRC also details your rights as a survivor. One of the most important things you can do to process sexual assault is to know your options. These rights may include:
- having a forensic exam at no cost
- having your exam stored and tested
- confidentiality with advocates and service providers
- financial compensation
Another option is to visit the RALIANCE website for a director of local programs and rape crisis centers. RALIANCE works to increase workplace safety and decrease sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse.
You can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline, developed by RAINN, or The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, for support and get the contact info for a rape crisis center near you. The hotline is 1-800-656-4673, or you can chat with them online.
If you’re not in the United States, you can visit the No More Directory for help in your country. No matter where you live, you’re not alone in your trauma.
There isn’t a correct way to heal from sexual assault, and it’s a different process for everyone. The most important thing you can do is remind yourself that the abuse isn’t your fault, no matter the situation.
Some common trauma responses include:
- sadness, fear, anger, or resentment
- frequent crying
- stomach pain
- having flashbacks or being unable to stop thinking about the experience
- difficulty focusing
- avoiding people or places that bring back difficult memories
Reaching out to an abuse crisis counselor or a therapist can help you find healthy ways to process. You can also consider speaking with a trusted friend or loved one about how you feel.
You might find healing in getting involved in raising awareness about sexual assault or supporting other survivors. Some people find solace in working to make changes in the laws or finding ways to prevent violence. Another way to process the assault is to advocate for changes in how survivors get treated.
Consider how your choice of processing will affect your healing. You’re the only person who knows what’s best, and feeling comfortable with your actions and efforts is essential. These are only ideas, and you don’t have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.
A therapist can help you process and heal from your trauma. During
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A therapist can help you shift your thoughts and behaviors to focus on functional thinking that encourages healing. It can help ease anxiety and promote mindfulness.
- Psychodynamic Therapy: Trauma can sometimes trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and this therapy can help overcome it. The therapist provides a safe space to focus on presently occurring emotions.
- Group Therapy: In group therapy, a therapist will treat multiple patients simultaneously. It can help treat emotional trauma and PTSD.
Processing and healing from sexual assault can be hard, but it’s possible with the right resources. Developing mental health conditions is common after experiencing assault.
Finding ways to cope is essential to healing, and your methods might differ from others. Consider what you need and what will help you recover. You know what you need better than anyone else, so only do what you feel comfortable with.
Remember that what happened to you is not your fault, and you’re not alone in your recovery. You can turn to your loved ones, a therapist, or other survivors for support and guidance.