There is so much shame ingrained in our society regarding sex, sexual trauma, gender roles. Not to mention…mentioning these topics. Child and adult survivors of sexual assault (and ALL forms of unwanted sexual experiences) often suffer in silence. Sometimes survivors have spoken up and have faced disbelief, victim-blaming, or repercussions in their friendships or relationships. At Heartland Therapy Connection we BELIEVE you and we believe your story is worthy of healing.
Sexual assault or abuse causes physical and emotional pain that makes if difficult for survivors to function in their everyday lives. If you are a survivor, you may experience severe anxiety. You might have recurrent and distressing thoughts or memories about the abuse. Feelings of self-hate, guilt, not feeling safe, and panic can pop up. You might have physical sensations like chest pains or gut issues. Surivors can find themselves feeling “jumpy” or easily startled and have nightmares and disturbed sleep. You might experience depression, dissociation or feeling numb, or find yourself avoiding memories or reminders. Concentration difficulties, struggling with trust in your relationships, and anger are other common symptoms.
When you have a traumatic experience like sexual assault, your brain cannot process this like “normal” memories. Your brain switched into “survival” mode during that highly upsetting experience to keep you alive. Traumatic experiences are not processed like a “normal” experience in your brain. Because of this, feelings, memories, and reminders of what happened get stuck in the emotional part of your brain. These can cause symptoms like those listed above.
HEALING FROM THE TRAUMA
Therapy can help survivors develop coping skills to lessen the severity of their symptoms, ensure their safety, and process what has happened. Therapists work with clients to ensure their environment is safe. They can help the client form a plan to stay safe in the face of distress or danger. Coping skills help clients tolerate distress, regulate their own emotions, and take care of themselves. As clients begin to feel less distressed, they can also focus on moving forward. They learn skills to help them live the life they have always wanted to live. Coping skills help survivors with immediate symptom reduction as well as long-term maintenance of their healing.
Supporting and believing our clients is of prime importance at Heartland Therapy Connection. We utilize EMDR, IFS, DBT, Narrative Therapy, and other evidence-based approaches to treat survivors and help them feel relief. These therapies help clients sort through mixed and confusing feelings. They help clients identify parts of themselves that have been affected most by the trauma. Identifying those parts can help clients heal. Therapy helps clients learn the tools they need to function optimally in their lives. They also help clients target negative beliefs about themselves, the world around them, and others, so they are able to feel safer and enjoy a life that has been limited by these thoughts.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO FIND RELIEF?
Clients who are also survivors learn ways to calm themselves, find relief, communicate their needs, and feel empowered. Clients often experience improvements in their self-esteem, self-care, relationships, and overall wellness after going through the therapeutic process. Aside from feeling a compassionate connection from their therapist, clients also become more compassionate towards themselves as they understand what happened and how they got to where they are now.