Sexual abuse is still one of the most underreported crimes today. What complicates things more is that eight out of 10 rapes are committed by someone the victim knows and trusts such as a colleague, former spouse, or teacher.
Victims of sexual abuse are three times more likely to suffer from depression, four times more likely to contemplate suicide, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs. Generally, the closer the victim was to the assailant, the more traumatic the abuse becomes since it is a violation of trust.
In recent years, much progress has been made in addressing this crime, and many people have come forward with their stories, thus further breaking down the stigma surrounding sexual abuse.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, it does not have to control you. You can rise up from the situation and go on to live a productive and successful life.
Be Aware of the Trauma’s Effects
More than 90% of victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms about two weeks after an assault. Simply put, sexual abuse is a traumatic event. This is a perfectly normal response to the terror, vulnerability, and lack of control felt during the attack. These symptoms usually involve:
- Lack of trust
- Feelings of guilt and shame
- Uncontrolled and invasive thoughts and recollections of the abuse
- Avoidance of specific “triggers” or reminders of the abuse
- Drastic changes in mood and thoughts. Victims often become more negative and angry in general
- Heightened arousal and sensitivity. Victims experience increased anxiety, hypervigilance, and frustration. They are also easily spooked
There is also a tendency to deny just how bad the event really was. This is typically a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with it. However, this unhealthy method will not spare you from inevitable psychological distress that is sure to emerge no matter how strong you are.
First and foremost, forgive yourself. Remember that attitudes are now changing in support of the victim. More and more people in society are realizing that the victim does not warrant the abuse. You must realize this too. The sooner you accept this, the more quickly you can heal.
You also need to reconnect with your body and emotions. Acknowledge what happened to you, and allow yourself to process and manage the normal feelings that accompany such events. Ways to do this include:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Tai Chi, Qigong, and yoga, which are all excellent tools for increasing body and mind awareness
- Rhythmic movements such as dancing. You can even incorporate this into your normal workout routine such as running or walking
Additionally, seek out therapy and join a support group. You need people around you to help you to see that it was not your fault and that you are not alone.
Make and Pursue Goals for Your Future
After allowing yourself the time you need to grieve and process your reactions, begin making small changes and decisions that will help you to regain control. Start small and gradually increase. It can be as simple as getting a new hairstyle or rearranging your furniture.
As a spiritual life coach and motivational speaker, I help others uncover the truth of who they are, embrace that authenticity, and display their unique selves boldly and unapologetically. Reach out to me for individual coaching that can help you overcome your past and look forward to your future!