Sexual Assault Recovery – Moving Past the Abuse
People often think sexual abuse is rape or attempted rape, but there are many other forms, including unwanted kissing or touching and repeatedly pressuring someone to have sex or perform sexual acts.
If you have been assaulted, then seeking help can assist in starting your sexual assault recovery and helping you to get on with your life.
Both men and women can be victims of sexual abuse, and it can occur in any relationship between two human beings, whether of the same-sex or opposite-sex. It can happen in:
- intimate relationships
- family relationships
- work relationships
- teaching or mentoring relationships.
Whether it occurred once or it keeps happening is not the point. If someone has crossed your boundaries without your explicit consent then you are being abused.
You may be feeling ashamed – that this is all your fault and that you are helpless. This is natural, and is what your abuser wants you to believe. But this is not your fault and you are not helpless.
None of this has happened because of anything you did. Your abuser may tell you that they couldn’t help it and that they did it because of the way you look or dress or behave. Or they may tell you that they are doing it out of ‘love’ for you or because they want what’s best for you – don’t believe a word of it.
The abuser has hurt you and you need to tell someone so it stops.
1. Tell someone
Telling someone what happened is the beginning of your healing. Speak to someone you trust (a close friend, a relative, the police).
If you feel uncomfortable talking to someone you know, there are many anonymous support services for survivors of sexual abuse:
- 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) offers 24/7 counselling for survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence
- 1800MYLINE (1800 695 463) offers 24/7 telephone support and advice to young people about relationships or relationship violence
- Living Well offers 24/7 online support for male victims of sexual assault
2. Look after yourself
- Exercise every day (walk, ride, swim etc) – it helps to lift your mood.
- Be with people who care about you.
- Keep a journal. Many people find that writing, painting or drawing helps them to deal with their emotions.
- Practise a daily relaxation or meditation technique such as this one:
Sit comfortably in a quiet place, with your back straight. Close your eyes. Inhale through your nose for a count of five. Hold for a count of two seconds. Breathe out slowly through your mouth for a long count of five. Repeat 10 –15 times, focusing on your breathing.
3. Keep an eye on your moods
If you are having trouble sleeping, find it hard to concentrate and you are feeling a sense of dread or hopelessness, please see your doctor as you might have depression or anxiety. The Australian National University also offers free online treatment for depression and anxiety at MoodGYM or ecouch.
4. Stay safe
If you feel like harming yourself:
- Please get a friend or relative to come over, or go to stay with them. Do not be alone with suicidal thoughts.
- Get rid of any items that you could use to hurt yourself.
- Go to bed and try to sleep. If you have been prescribed sleeping tablets, take a safe dose of these; even if you do not sleep, they will lessen your emotional pain. Doctors give people painkillers when they have bad physical pain; it’s the same for psychological pain.
- When you wake up, things will often seem very different, and you can access help from family, friends and professionals. Sexual assault recovery is possible, and you can go on to live a full and happy life.