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Navigating the Healing Process After Sexual Trauma

The process of healing from sexual trauma, be it abuse or assault, is a long and difficult journey. It can feel overwhelming and leave survivors feeling isolated and alone. However, it is important to remember that there is hope and that with the right support, healing is possible. While every survivor's experience is unique, understanding the basics of the healing process can be an important part of finding relief and reclaiming one's life.

Understand that there is no right way to heal

When it comes to healing from sexual abuse and assault, it's important to remember that everyone's healing journey is different. You may feel pressure to heal in a certain way or within a certain timeline, but it's important to give yourself the freedom and space to heal at your own pace.

It's also important to remember that healing is not a straight line. You may have good days and bad days, and setbacks are a natural part of the healing journey. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up without judgment or shame.

If you find yourself struggling with the healing process, it's okay to seek help. Don't be afraid to reach out to a therapist or other mental health professional who has experience in working with survivors of sexual abuse and assault. They can provide you with the tools and support you need to navigate the healing process.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to heal from sexual trauma. What matters most is that you are taking steps to prioritize your well-being and healing, whatever that may look like for you.

Seek professional help if you can

Healing from sexual abuse and assault is a journey that can be both overwhelming and emotionally taxing. Seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in treating trauma can provide a safe and supportive environment to begin the healing process.

Therapists trained in trauma-informed care understand the complexities and unique challenges of healing from sexual trauma. They can help individuals navigate their thoughts and emotions, identify triggers, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Therapy can also provide a space to work through feelings of guilt, shame, and anger.

It's important to note that finding a therapist that works for you may take time and patience. Don't be afraid to interview multiple therapists before choosing one that feels like a good fit. Therapy is a collaborative process, and it's crucial to feel comfortable and trust the therapist you're working with.

While therapy may not be an option for everyone, there are also support groups available. These groups are often facilitated by licensed professionals and provide a space for individuals to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences. Support groups can offer a sense of community and a chance to feel less alone.

Overall, seeking professional help is a crucial step in the healing process after sexual trauma. It's a sign of strength to acknowledge that you need help and actively seek it out. Remember, healing takes time and effort, but with the right support, it is possible to move forward and live a fulfilling life.

Create or join a support group

Another important aspect of healing from sexual abuse or assault is finding a support group. Support groups provide a safe space where survivors can share their experiences with others who have been through similar situations. It is incredibly validating to have a group of people who understand what you have gone through and can offer support and encouragement.

Creating a support group can be as simple as reaching out to friends or acquaintances who may have experienced abuse or assault and setting up regular meetings. If you prefer a more structured environment, many organizations offer support groups specifically for survivors of sexual abuse. Local mental health clinics or advocacy groups may be able to provide information on support groups in your area.

Joining a support group can be intimidating, but it can also be incredibly empowering. Being part of a group of survivors who are actively working towards healing can give you the strength and motivation to keep moving forward. Support groups often provide resources and tools for coping with trauma, as well as opportunities to participate in advocacy work and raise awareness about the issue of sexual abuse.

Remember that healing from sexual abuse or assault is a process, and there is no one "right" way to do it. If you feel like a support group could be beneficial to your healing journey, take the time to explore your options and find a group that feels like a good fit for you. Remember that there is strength in the community and that you are not alone in your journey toward healing from abuse.

Work on building self-esteem and self-compassion

When healing from sexual abuse and assault, it can be difficult to feel good about yourself or have compassion for yourself. The trauma can leave you feeling worthless, guilty, and ashamed. It's important to work on building your self-esteem and self-compassion as a crucial part of the healing process.

One way to build self-esteem is to focus on your strengths and achievements. Make a list of your accomplishments, big or small, and read them when you need a boost. Remind yourself of the good qualities that make you who you are. Practicing self-care and engaging in activities that make you feel good can also help boost your self-esteem.

Self-compassion is equally important. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would treat a friend who has gone through a similar experience. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and don't judge them. Practice self-forgiveness and avoid self-blame. Remember that healing takes time.

Working on building self-esteem and self-compassion can help you to feel more confident, empowered, and in control. This, in turn, can aid in the healing process and help you move forward from the trauma. Don't be afraid to seek professional help or join a support group for additional guidance and resources. You are not alone.

-Seth Showalter, LCSW

Brave Counseling & Psychiatry
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