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SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION

Public Record Resources



Sexual Assault: Will I<br />Ever Feel OK Again?
Sexual Assault: Will I
Ever Feel OK Again?



Diary of a Rape Victim
Diary of a Rape Victim



The Sorrow of Sexual Assault and the Joy of Healing
The Sorrow of Sexual Assault and the Joy of Healing

STAGES OF HEALING



Sexual assault can be anything from unwanted sexual contact all the way to brutal rape. No matter what happened, or how long ago, sexual victimization can have life long effects on the victim. For some victims, the physical injuries can be devistating; for others the emotional injuries can be equally destructive - and can last for many years. Regardless, the incident has changed their lives, which will never be the same. How victims cope with the events will depend on the willingness to move through the process - a process which can be painful and difficult. While elderly victims struggle with physical recovery, they seem to be much better with the emotional recovery; while many younger victims typically recover quickly physically, but face a lifetime of uphill emotional struggle.

Stages of the Healing Process

Shock

This stage can last anywhere from hours to weeks or months. Typical reactions might include saying "I can't feel anything" or "I can't think clearly." Disorientation and high levels of anxiety are common.

Denial

The two biggest things under this catagory are: that the event even happened and that even if it did, it didn't "bother" the victim. The stages of shock and denial can take severe mental and emotional tolls on victims. The psychological destruction, types of traumatic reactions and the long-term effects and syndromes impacting victims are many. The severity or length of the incident or incidents doesn't seem to have any impact on how deeply a victim is harmed - the victim of a date rape with minor physical injuries doesn't suffer less than a victim who is raped repeatedly and receives more severe physical injuries.

Blaming

Most blaming is typically directed at the self. Victims may focus on thoughts such as: "If only I didn't...", or "I should have...", or "I shouldn't have...". Making matters worse, this self blame is easily exacerabated by supporters like friends, family or investigators with comments such as "what were you thinking - wearing that short skirt to that seedy place" or other such comments which only serve to place the blame for the attack on the victim, instead of on the attacker who chose to take actions against the victim.

Pain

Pain usually covers two issues: avoiding and feeling. Attempts to avoid feeling physical and emotional pains resulting from an attack might include depression, acting out or self-medicating with alcohol or other "numbing" medications or drugs. When the pain gets through, sadness, fearfulness and confusion come to the forefront.

Anger

At some point, for most people, pain demands a reaction. For victims of sexual assault, this reaction is usually anger. The anger might be directed at the self - seen when the victim is intensely focused on their own behaviors (self injury and substance abuse are common), or might be focused on others - either the attacker in particular, or directed at anyone/anything that can become the focus of the feelings, even innocent bystanders like spouses, family members or friends.

Integration/Acceptance

The time, effort, and method of reaching this stage differ with each individual. There's no "schedule" for when a person "should be over it." The unfortunate fact is that many victims don't reach this stage - and certainly those who don't seek assistance have even smaller chances for leading healthy, fruitful lives after sexual assault. For those who get here, this stage includes the ability to put the event behind them (which is NOT the same as forgetting it!) and start identifying and doing new behaviors. This might be going back to school or work, going out with friends again, doing volunteer work, getting involved in outreach activities, or getting to a place where they are ready to resume, renew, or initiate an intimate relationship.

Thus the stages and roles are:

Role: Victim
Seperate from the trauma
Survivor
Being with the trauma
Hero/Heroine
Moved on from the trauma
Stages:Shock
Denial
Blaming
Pain
Anger
Integrating
Accepting



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Last Updated: March 16, 2011