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Self-care after Sexual Violence

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash       Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Sexual Violence is a major thing that has been around for a long time. An average of 463,634 victims yearly in the U.S. ranging from ages 12 and up go through or have gone through sexual violence. As many cases as there are, only about 310 out of 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. Furthermore, there is also a range of 50 reports that lead to arrest, 28 cases lead to a felony conviction, and 25 perpetrators will end up incarcerated. So, how do people that go through this recover? Well, there are programs for people who have been sexually assaulted, and they assist in the recovery of those who have experienced violence or other traumatic events.

Common Effects of Trauma

  • Flashbacks
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Hopelessness
  • Shame
  • Physical Effects may include:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping 

What can you do to recover from being physically assaulted?

Relaxation: Using different techniques like doing yoga, listening to music, meditation/breathing techniques, and doing things that you enjoy. Express your feelings when they become present, talk to someone about your feelings, or write down your thoughts.  

Exercise: This can be one of the ways you care for yourself after something traumatic. You can incorporate walks, running, or going to the gym. Also, even though sleeping may be difficult you can incorporate using relaxation techniques, controlled breathing, and meditation can also be helpful.

Engage in Hobbies: Try out new hobbies to find your interest, for example:

  • Art
  • Gardening
  • Writing
  • Sewing
  • Photography
  • Knitting

What is the importance of self-care after a traumatic event? 

The importance of self-care after a traumatic event is to keep you from thinking about that certain event and keeping your mind clear of negative thoughts. Also, being assured of events that happened to you, will make you more confident in talking about it with a trusted person without second thoughts. Self-care will help you to feel better when talking about your feelings as to not keep them bottled up, and you’ll have more positive thinking when talking about what affected you. With practice, it is an emotional exercise that will make you strong enough to help others as well and to better yourself. You will be able to handle other domestic abuse survivors' situations or listen to their stories and they to you because you have already take care of your own needs. 

Identify your Triggers: It’s helpful to identify triggers that you may have had due to a traumatic event. Doing this will help you to create coping strategies to better ensure that you are safe around certain things and people. Also, be prepared with grounding methods: (strategies that can help a person manage their traumatic memories or strong emotions.), if you do end up being triggered. Doing this will help you focus on yourself, each of your senses, and keep you from reliving the traumatic event over in your mind. 

Grounding Techniques:

  • Sound: Listening to music, calling a loved one, and reading aloud are great grounding techniques.

  • Touch: Grounding yourself with touch could include taking a hot or cold shower, or cuddling with your pet.

  • Smell: Smelling scents that you enjoy can be a comforting grounding technique by lighting a scented candle, sniffing peppermint, and or using essential oils with positive associations. (Rose, Bergamot, German Chamomile, Jasmine, Clary Sage, and Lavender essential oils are best).

  • Taste: Eating things that take your mind off negative thoughts. Biting into a lemon, or letting a piece of chocolate melt in your mouth can ground you. 

  • Sight: Focusing on specific objects like counting the pieces of furniture around you or any other object, watching your favorite movie/tv show(s), reading is a great way to ground yourself, going for walks, and or nature/bird watching, etc.

Once you identify your triggers and incorporate your grounding techniques, dealing with a traumatic experience will most likely be more manageable. 


What isn’t considered Self-Care? 

Some people might not know how to care for themselves after a traumatic event. They might turn to things that would eventually affect them negatively, like drugs for example. Some people turn to drugs because it numbs their feelings and temporarily relieves them for a short period, but it catches up. This would leave an individual hooked/addicted to alcohol, sleep issues, and other health problems. This is why turning to professional help in dealing with PTSD would be most helpful and also discussing with a close relative about your issues that you may have or may be dealing with. 

Most people may not know who to turn to after experiencing acts of sexual violence, they end up in a negative state and become more susceptible to making poor decisions. Traumatized people who abuse substances are often troubled by anxiety disorders (such as panic attacks, phobias, incapacitating worry, or compulsions), mood disorders (such as major depression or dysthymia), and disruptive behavior disorders (such as attention deficit or antisocial personality disorder). An early traumatic experience may increase the risk of substance use disorders (SUDs) because of attempts to self-medicate or to dampen mood symptoms associated with a dysregulated biological stress response.


If you know a loved one who deals with PTSD and has an addiction, you can always help by sitting them down and addressing their issues. Talk to them about getting professional help, and work on some strategies to get them out of that negative state. (Call 800.656.HOPE)


RAINN | The nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization

Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics | RAINN › statistics › victims-sexual-violence

Trauma - reaction and recovery - Better Health Channel › health › trauma-reac

The Importance of Self-Care After Trauma | Highland Springs › blog › the-importance-...

Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and ... › articles › PMC3051362

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