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paths to healing from sexual assault

The path to healing can be long, difficult and confusing. 
I believe an important part of healing is being able to name what happened to you for what it is. 
It wasn't until I was able to label my experiences for what they were was I able to begin to heal. 
What follows are some suggestions for what can help with healing - just click on the links to be taken
to what you want to see.

There is no time limit in healing
There is no time limit on healing. People may tell you that 'you should be over it by now' or that you need to 'let go' or 'move on'. Ignore them. You are entitled to take as much time as you need to recover from what happened to you. I personally feel that I will never 'be over' what happened but I am learning to deal with it better everyday. When and how you recover is in your hands only and you have as much time as you need.

Any unwanted sexual contact is extremely difficult to deal with and it can often feel overwhelming trying to deal with the emotions that follow. Survivors often use negative ways of coping with their emotions. This could include:

Eating disorders such as Bulimia, Anorexia, Compulsive Overeating and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) are often used as a way of dealing with difficult emotions. This may be something that develops as a result of experiencing sexual abuse or it may be an old issue that resurfaces in the aftermath of rape. Either way it is important that you get professional help. Eating disorders are extremely dangerous to your health and can be fatal. For a safe message board please see Something Fishy
Self injury is when a person deliberately harms themselves as a way of dealing with overwhelming emotions and can include cutting, burning, slapping, scratching and banging. Again it is important to seek professional support and find a healthy way of dealing with emotions. However if you are someone who self injures I think it is also important not to feel guilt. You are coping in the only way you know how and guilt only adds to the negative feelings that make you want to harm yourself in the first place. It is possible to break free from the cycle of self-injury. For more information see SIARI (self injury and related issues).  
Another method of avoiding difficult emotions is to blot them out using drugs or alcohol. Again addictions of this nature require professional attention. Alcoholics Anonymous offer support to those struggling with addiction and their families. Find them at Alcoholics Anonymous.  

Making the decision to seek help is a hard, but is also very worthwhile. If you decide to look for support
support in recovery from sexual assault
there are many options open to you.
A Crisis Line
If you feel very distressed or do not know how to go about getting support a good place to start is with a crisis line. You will receive support from trained specialists who will be able to tell you what support is available to you locally. See this page for international hotlines
See a Dr. or GP
A Dr is often the first port of call - particularly if you have just been assaulted. Firstly they can assist you with any physical concerns you may have such as injuries and fear of pregnancy and STI's. They will also be able to refer you to a counsellor or therapist or tell you about in support groups in your area.

You may find it helpful to try a talking therapy such as counselling or psychotherapy. Looking at what happened to you with the help of a professional can be a useful process and it can be very comforting to know that you have a space for yourself each week. Make sure that you are comfortable with your therapist and never accept a therapist who minimises what happened to you. Sadly just because someone is a professional does not mean they understand the issues that surround rape. It can be terribly painful to experience invalidation from a therapist or counsellor, please do not internalise it or accept it. There are some excellent therapists out there, some who will specialise in sexual assault issues.

Other forms of therapy
There are many different types of therapy that you may wish to explore. Ask your Dr about potential art/drama/dance therapy that is available in your area. 

If you are suffering from depression or PTSD you may wish to consider medication such as anti-depressants. There are many different brands so if you do choose to take medication then make sure you find the right one for you with the help of your Dr. You could also consider alternative remedies such as herbal or flower remedies. Again your Dr. should be able to advise you about facilities in your area.

Group Support
You may be lucky enough to have a support group in your area. If you feel this would be helpful to you do not hesitate to contact your local group. Never feel that what happened to you was not enough to qualify for this type of support. There are no grades of rape and you deserve as much support as anyone else.

On-line support
A good place to get support is on-line. There are many excellent internet support groups available. Many people find that it is easier to type about their experiences than it is to talk and the internet can be a good place to start your healing. Be careful to choose a place that is well moderated - check out Pandora's Aquarium and see what you think
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