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Treatment for Sexual Abuse Trauma

sexual traumaResearch shows that the most common trauma for women is sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse. According to RAINN, an American is sexually assaulted every 92 seconds; in total, one in three women will experience at least one such assault in her life. Rates of sexual assault are much higher for women than for men.

Additionally, rape is the most underreported crime; only 63% of assaults and 12% of child sexual abuse cases are reported to the authorities. Those who do not report are much less likely to receive treatment for their traumatic experience, resulting in a potentially lifelong struggle with anxiety, intrusive thoughts, depression, and problems with intimacy later in life.

Common Experiences After Sexual Assault

94% of women who are raped experience PTSD-like symptoms in the weeks following their assault. These include intrusive re-experiencing of the assault, through flashbacks or memory triggers; avoidance of people, places, or things that remind one of the event; marked decline in mood or thoughts, including feelings of anxiety or depression; and increased physical reactivity, such as being easily frightened or always looking over one’s shoulder for danger.

The relationship with the assaulter also affects one’s reaction to the assault. The closer you are to the perpetrator, the more likely you are to be seriously impacted by the event.

Rates of risky behavior and drug use also increase after an assault. Those who have been raped are more likely to contemplate and attempt suicide, use marijuana, cocaine, and other major drugs, experience career or school problems, and have relationship issues.

Overcoming Sexual Assault

While a majority of people naturally recover from traumatic events, others do not. It is important to seek professional mental health care in the weeks following an event – if symptoms persist over time, you may be at risk of developing PTSD.

Many women make the mistake of claiming that they are fine, brushing off the urge to seek help, when in reality this does not help you to unpack the trauma associated with what happened. The mind’s resilience can work against your long-term healing – many of those who were abused as children may outright forget or deny what happened to them in an attempt at self-preservation. This forgetfulness is often overcome by strange avoidances and unexplained sick feelings later in life, particularly in an intimate setting.

Avoidance is a short-term strategy; in order to successfully move on and overcome sexual assault, professional help is required. It is beneficial to seek treatment as soon as possible, although it is never too late.

What Is Treatment Like?

Trauma treatment for sexual assault survivors is multifaceted and tailored to an individual’s needs. Through talk therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Motivational Interviewing (MI), you can work through the feelings surrounding the event and become equipped with new, healthy coping mechanisms. Newer therapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) work to gradually reduce the fear and reactivity associated with these memories.

You may also receive hands-on, experiential treatment. These approaches are particularly helpful for those who have avoided deep-seated memories for a very long time, and can include art therapy, music therapy, mindfulness training, ecotherapy, and equine therapy. By relating to something abstract and outside of yourself, you may unlock additional feelings of relaxation and calm as you make sense of what has happened.

Healing is Possible

If you have experienced sexual assault, it’s normal to find your environment to be full of reminders and triggers. You don’t have to live in fear anymore. By pursuing treatment, you take the first step to reclaiming your life and reducing trauma-reaction symptoms.

At Canyon Crossing, we specialize in healing women who have undergone traumatic events. To learn more about our services, call 1-800-651-7254; our compassionate team members are standing by 24/7.