Only about 30% of sexual assault cases are reported to authorities, according to the National Sexual Offender Public Website. That number is extremely low. Why? Some research suggests that sexual abuse victims don’t report sexual violence either out of fear of retaliation by the perpetrator or the fear of psychological and emotional damage that can occur during medical examinations and legal proceedings around the assault, which can be an embarrassing and shameful experience for victims. As a result, many females, primarily adolescent girls, refuse to report sexual violence. Even more shocking, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, every 8 minutes, Child Protective Services in the United States finds evidence for (and not against) child sexual abuse in cases where authorities have been contacted.
Do you know someone with a history of sexual abuse or rape? How was this person’s mood, behavior, or affect (i.e., physical appearance, primarily the face) after the event? Most likely the person has experienced some form of change in terms of behavior, affect, and thinking patterns. Rape or sexual abuse is traumatic. The trauma may be short-term or long-term, but it will never be easy for the victim to overcome outside of therapy or spiritual support (i.e., a pastor, youth Pastor, Mentor, etc.). Trauma requires therapy or counseling so the individual can learn healthy coping skills, emotionally and cognitively process the incident, and find healthy ways to be at peace with oneself. Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, MS, LPC, and Sheela Raja, PhD, recognized this need and wrote the manual The Sexual Trauma Workbook for Teen Girls: A Guide to Recovery From Sexual Assault and Abuse.
There is a compassionate letter from the authors in the introduction to help readers feel understood, and readers are encouraged to reach out for help if they begin to feel negative emotions, flashbacks, or other challenging emotions while reading. There is also a therapy-needs checklist that helps readers identify their needs. Each chapter has a “my story” section in which personal stories are provided to the reader. This is a good idea as it gives concrete examples to teens who may struggle with sharing their story or experience. Activities 1-6 seems to focus on helping girls conceptualize what has happened to them and find purpose and meaning after the traumatic event. Activities 7-20 seem to focus exclusively on healing, maintaining healthy coping skills, and moving past the trauma of sexual abuse/assault. The remaining activities focus on identification of symptoms and negative thought patterns such as nightmares, symptoms of PTSD, anger, fear, shame, guilt, and depression or anxiety. There are also additional resources that would be very helpful to teen girls and their families.
Each chapter focuses on important topics such as self-care, building coping skills, sleep hygiene, building insight about thoughts and feelings, breathing and relaxation techniques, meditations, guided imagery, acceptance of the incident, journaling or expressive writing, processing the incident and acknowledging victim status, personal safety, and social supports. Chapters are well organized and easy to understand or follow. As a therapist, I appreciate the chapters that focus on self-soothing and anger management as many victims of sexual abuse internalize their emotions. It is likely that teen girls will appreciate the organization of the manual and how each chapter encourages introspection, insight-building, and homework. Because of the homework and worksheets provided, teen girls can begin to psychologically and emotionally process the trauma of sexual abuse and explore questions, feelings, behaviors, and thoughts.
This manual is a great supplement to therapy. For example, a teen girl may be receiving therapy one to two times per week in a clinical setting but struggle at home with emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. This manual can assist a teen in remembering to use healthy coping skills and in exploring thoughts and feelings that may not occur during therapy sessions. For many of my own young clients, their most introspective experiences tend to occur before bed, before school, or outside of the therapy office. This manual may also encourage families to complete worksheets and chapters together, especially if the sexual abuse victim is a younger teen.
Readers will find this manual helpful and educational. It is a wonderful addition to a mental health professional’s bookshelf. It is also a great place to start helping adolescent girls heal. If you know someone who may be suffering from the trauma of sexual abuse, I encourage you to contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1800-656-HOPE.
The Sexual Trauma Workbook for Teen Girls: A Guide To Recovery From Sexual Assault And Abuse
Instant Help Books for Teens, June 2016
Paperback, 200 pages