Sexual Assault - The Healing Process
By Ernie Gray, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
/ Published April 27, 2011
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Sexual assault (SA) is a very traumatic and often a private crisis because of the isolation that many survivors feel due to a lack of support or the tendency of some to blame the victim for being assaulted. Individuals react differently to trauma and SA. There is no right way to feel or to heal. People need to accept the survivor's feelings and behaviors without judging them.
There is no training manual that teaches survivors how they should act after being assaulted.
Survivors may experience a wide range of reactions immediately after the assault or years later. Their reactions and healing process are connected to who they are as a person, and are influenced by their culture and economic background.
Feelings can seem overwhelming and never-ending, yet this is very much a process of healing and empowerment.
Victims have had their sense of control taken away by the assault, and true healing occurs only after they begin to regain a sense of power. For many, it is a lifelong journey.
Survivors need a lot of support. The base SARC is available 24/7 for help and support. The SARC will assign a trained and compassionate victim advocate (VA) to support the victim for as long as needed. Friends and family can also provide support to survivors. Chaplains, clergy members, and counselors are trained to help victims understand and deal with their feelings.
Survivors may join a support group, or try healing based on art, music, writing, physical activity, or meditation.
Victims have different needs and coping strategies. In the final phase of healing, many survivors find resolution by becoming involved with education,
prevention, and support groups. By telling their story and offering support and encouragement to others, they find meaning and purpose for the suffering they endured.
As a new self awareness and inner strength takes hold there is an identity shift from victim to survivor. Survivors must believe in their strength and capacity to heal.
Taking care of yourself - Consider counseling. Find a therapist that you trust. One who specializes in treating trauma is ideal. 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 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, alcohol, or 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. No one has to go through this crisis alone. The SARC and VA are there 24/7 to provide help, information, and support. To contact the Patrick AFB SARC call 494-7272.