The Fight for Your Mental Health Begins Now
A simple guide for sexual assault victims
From Bill Cosby to Brett Kavanaugh to R. Kelly, these past 12 months have been riddled with sexual assault trials. With these allegations come an avalanche of news reports, social media posts and conversations about abuse. For abuse survivors, such inundation of media can make them feel as though they’re reliving their assault experience. Nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks begin to plague them.
After the Kavanaugh hearing, many therapists reported a surge of new clientele who claimed to have difficulty coping with the news. Many of my own clients began to question whether or not their experiences counted as assault at all.
Society teaches that rape is when a man jumps out of the bushes to attack and subdue an unsuspecting female. But this definition leads to misconceptions about what sexual assault truly entails.
Sexual assault is any act in which a person intentionally, sexually touches another without their consent or uses coercion or physical force to make someone engage in a sexual act. So if you have been victim to sexual assault, it’s imperative that you understand the following:
● Sexual assault and harassment are never the fault of the victim. The only cause of the assault is the perpetrator.
● Sexual assault is not limited to penetration. It can include forced touching, oral sex, kissing, fondling, groping, rubbing, threats and inappropriate speech.
● You may be at risk to post-traumatic stress disorder which can be triggered by various forms of trauma such as hearing the stories of others.
More recently, Lifetime premiered the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly detailing sexual assault allegations against the singer. For three nights, dozens of women painfully recalled the trauma they experienced over a period of 25 years. All over social media the public weighed in on whether they believed the victims or stood by the “Pied Piper.”
These public cases lead to the uproar of opinions from all sides. And with the influence of social media, those opinions are becoming less and less easy to avoid.
But it’s important to remember that opinions are grounded in the individual’s experience and core values. People’s opinions say more about them than about anything or anyone else, so don’t allow them to overwhelm you.
More allegations against public figures will likely continue to surface in the future. So if you’ve been victim to sexual assault, it’s important to make yourself a priority. Here are some self-care tips to protect and empower you during these times:
● You must be your first priority. Before you can support others, whether family or friends or work, you must be well enough to do so.
● Without your mental health, you suffer. If you have difficulty coping, you may require some additional support from a mental health clinician. There is no shame in this. Think of it as a tune-up.
● Protect your space, both physically and emotionally. Your space should always be one of love, respect and peace. You have the right to control who you allow in your space, the conversations you engage in and the places you go.
● Choose one person that can actively listen and validate your experiences, not judge or offer advice.
You are valuable, and I wish you love, peace and light in your journey. If you are in need of a safe space to talk, the national sexual assault hotline is available at 1-800-656-4673.
Ce Anderson is a licensed mental health therapist and author. She pulls the veil away from the abuse epidemic and gives concrete solutions to victims of abuse and those who assist them.