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RECOVERY AND SUPPORT
SAST | Recovering from Sexual Assault is a Process | Additional Support for Survivors | Support for the Significant Other/Secondary Survivor
Recovering from Sexual Assault is a Process
Getting back on track
It is important for you to know that any of the feelings after being sexually assaulted are normal and temporary reactions to a traumatic event. Fear and confusion will lessen with time, but the trauma may disrupt your life for a while. Reactions might be triggered by people, places, or things connected to the assault, or they might seem to come from "out of the blue." Talking about the assault can help you feel better, but it may be really hard to do. In fact, it's common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to "get on with life" and "let the past be the past." This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months. Eventually you will need to deal with fears and feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Talking with someone who can listen in an understanding and affirming ways — whether it's a friend, member of your place of worship or community, family member, hotline-staff member, or counselor — is a key part of the healing process.
Recovering from a sexual assault is a gradual process that is different for everyone. Victims/survivors may have different needs and coping strategies, so there is not a set timeline for healing. There are many decisions to be made and many feelings to be expressed. Not all of the decisions or feelings will need to be handled at once, but rather as recovery progresses. This is a brief outline of the recovery process that many, but not necessarily all, victims/survivors go through.
- I just want to forget what happened. You may go from feeling emotionally drained, confused, and out of control to trying to forget what happened. You may begin distancing yourself from the sexual assault and outwardly appear "recovered," but friends and family members' support is still needed.
- I'm so angry and depressed. I can't seem to get control of my emotions. Regardless of how hard you may try to keep the sexual assault from impacting your life, no matter how much you may deny its importance, the experience has had a profound influence. You may experience anger, depression, shame, anxiety, and feel that everything is falling apart. Recurring nightmares and flashbacks are common during this time. Depression may cause a change in sleeping or eating patterns, and anger may be directed at the perpetrator, loved ones, or yourself. It may be difficult, at first, to feel comfortable with intimacy, including trusting people, exploring new relationships, and enjoying sexual activity, if you choose to be sexually active. Understand that this may take time. Resist being pressured to be sexually active before you are ready. Many victims/survivors seek assistance from trained professionals who can help to put their lives back together and recover from stress related to the assault.
- Life goes on and I can handle it. You have resolved a lot of the anger and depression. The sexual assault may have changed your life, but it now plays a smaller role. You feel more in control.
Ways to take care of yourself
- Get support from friends, family, and community members. Try to identify people you trust who will validate your feelings and affirm your strengths.
- Talk about the assault and express feelings. Choose when, where, and with whom to talk about the assault, and only disclose information that feels safe for you to reveal.
- Use stress-reduction techniques. Exercise by jogging, doing aerobics, walking and practice relaxation techniques such as doing yoga, listening to music, praying and meditating.
- Maintain a balanced diet and a normal sleep cycle as much as possible and avoid overusing stimulants like caffeine, sugar, nicotine, or alcohol or other drugs.
- Discover your playful and creative self. Playing and creativity are important for healing from hurt.
- Take "time outs." Give yourself permission to take quiet moments to reflect, relax, and rejuvenate, especially during times you feel stressed or unsafe.
- Try reading. Reading can be a relaxing and healing activity.
- Consider writing or journaling as a way of expressing your thoughts and feelings.
Student Affairs Office (x6220)
Members of the Student Affairs Office can mobilize campus resources around you. They can also personally support you through the crisis time. If you decide to go to the hospital, they may accompany you. They can also help you decide whether to contact your family and advise you about your options, including pressing charges in the College system or the legal system.
Health and Wellness Center (x6275)
By calling the Health and Wellness Center, you can make an appointment to see any of the staff counselors. They may be helpful in an immediate crisis and can also help support you and work with you through your recovery over the long term. There is no fee for using Psychological Services, and they can assist you in ensuring you have on-going support in place beyond your 10 sessions should you feel the need to continue.
Your RA, or any RA with whom you feel comfortable. All RA's have been trained in crisis intervention and in counseling and support skills. They can provide you with support and direct you to other campus services.
Sexual Offense Services (SOS)
SOS will respond to the problems of sexual violence by providing crisis intervention, prevention, and education to increase community awareness of sexual violence in order to create a more supportive environment for victims.
You can receive a list of local therapists, including clinical psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists in private practice from Health and Wellness Center. The cost of therapy outside the College is not covered by your College insurance, although many students have insurance benefits through their parents which will cover all or part of the cost of therapy.