The Impact of Sexual Trauma
Experts in the trauma field currently agree that trauma impacts a person on three levels: body, emotion, and thought. Recovery from rape, sexual trauma, or sexual abuse needs to happen in all three of these arenas. Reconnecting with body and sexuality are universally crucial to the healing process. Sadness, guilt, shame, fear, and rage typically need to be expressed, understood, and allowed to dissipate. Emotional flooding or complete emotional shut down may be seen. Intrusive thoughts or memories of the event may take over a person’s thinking, or a person may struggle to be able to concentrate at all. Negative beliefs about personal worth may need to be challenged and changed.
The Recovery Process
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, depression, anxiety, addictions, and compulsive behaviors are among the conditions that result from this form of trauma. Further, if the sexual violation occurred in the context of an important relationship, or occurred chronically throughout childhood, recovery typically includes a deeper reworking at the level of personality and relationships with significant others. This involves strengthening self-image, becoming more confident, and respecting one’s self in relationships.
Shame is a powerful and pervasive force that commonly accompanies experiences of sexual trauma or abuse. The first steps on the path to reclaiming wholeness are often verbalizing the traumatic experience, and releasing any self-blame that may be present.
An abused child learns that his or her body, emotions and needs are unimportant. Learning to value one’s experiences and place in the world are a key aspect of the recovery process, as well.
Trauma of any kind presents a challenge to the belief that the world is safe, or just. Spiritual questions regarding why these things occur, or how a Higher Power might be present for regaining wholeness are commonly very important in the recovery process.