If you are a woman who has been raped, the trauma you’ve experienced may require months or years of counseling in order to heal the fear and hurt. You may experience a wide range of reactions including severe mood swings, insomnia, low self-esteem, and even the manifestation of an eating disorder. Thoughts of the future only invoke fear where there used to be promise. You may also start to question why God would allow such a horrific even to happen in your life.
In the past, it was not uncommon for people to look down on you if you’d been raped. You were considered dirty or ruined. Today, there is a much greater understanding of the traumatic impact that rape has on any woman, along with better therapies to help them get past it. Today, women are taught that "no means no", and that those who live through it are considered "survivors". Fortunately, this greater understanding and compassion provides more options for rape survivors to get the degree and type of trauma treatment that is best suited to their situation and personal beliefs.
No woman should have to endure the trauma of rape, no matter who she is, what she does or what her beliefs. But, rape does occur and when it does, the impact is devastating. However, recovery from the trauma is possible. How well you will recover depends largely on the steps you take after the rape. By following the tips below, you will be much more likely to gain perspective, heal from the trauma, and be able to move forward with a greater sense of control over your life.
Surround Yourself with Support
Your family and closest friends are your best allies for getting through the trauma you’ve experienced. Spend as much time with them as you can. It’s tempting to close yourself off from everyone – and this is the worst thing you can do. When you’re alone, it’s far too easy to relive the painful memory over and over, falling deeper into despair. It’s also not uncommon to forget about the routine you had before the rape and stop socializing altogether.
Garnering support from your friends and loved ones is one of the best ways to boost your self-esteem and combat any thoughts about being unworthy of love. And that is an important element of successful healing.
Even if you already have a large support network, you might also consider joining a support group of rape survivors. A group of women who know what you’ve been through is a great place to open up about things that you may not feel comfortable discussing with others. If you have specific religious beliefs, a faith-based support group may be especially beneficial to help you work through internal conflicts between your faith and your feelings about the horrific experience you’ve endured.
Get Your Feelings Out
If you’re like many women, you may feel inclined to keep your feelings bottled up inside. Talking about what happened can be scary; doing so reminds you of the very thing you want to forget. However, it’s crucial that you do get your feelings out in the open. If you don’t, the anger, pain, and other negative feelings will fester and grow. That interferes with healing, and can cause you to spiral downward into a dark pit of despair. By keeping them inside, you’ll also perpetuate the gut-wrenching sense of alone-ness that often follows a traumatic event.
Talking about, as well as writing down, the feelings you’re experiencing – no matter how raw or unpleasant – will greatly facilitate the healing process. It is an important part of trauma treatment. Talk about your experience to a therapist, in your support group, and to those you trust who are willing to listen. Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal, and then talk about them some more. Getting your feelings out will help lessen the pain by taking away the power of the memories.
If you’re like the vast majority of rape survivors, you blame yourself on some level. Perhaps your clothing was too tight, you were too friendly, you should have been more alert when you were walking out to your car at night, you were stupid to stop at an isolated ATM, and so on. Somehow, some way, it must have been your fault.
The guilt and self-blame that accompanies post rape trauma can be powerful – and destructive. It wreaks havoc with your self-esteem and causes you to second-guess yourself.
One of the most important elements in healing is to find a way to forgive yourself. There is only one person to blame for what has happened to you and that is the person who committed the rape. Even if you could have done something differently, it may not have changed the outcome. Give yourself the same benefit of the doubt and compassion that you would give a friend or loved one if they had been raped.
If you continue to find it impossible to forgive yourself, talk to a therapist who specializes in trauma treatment. A skilled therapist can help you with the irrational, self-condemning tape that keeps telling you that you were somehow to blame.
Take Back Your Courage
It may seem safer and more comfortable to stay home and avoid potentially dangerous people and situations. That doesn’t make life very enjoyable, however. As hard as it may be to face your fears, this is the single most important step in the healing process. It will determine whether you will be able to live a joyful life or miss out on all of the positive things because of the potential for something bad to happen.
Don’t be ashamed of being afraid; it’s a normal side effect of trauma. But do seek the necessary trauma treatment that will help you recognize your triggers and learn how to prevent them from causing panic attacks or other negative reactions. Facing your fear will allow you to eventually overcome it. By doing so, you take back your courage to live your life on your terms.
Accept that Your Life will Never Be the Same, but That it Can Still Be Great!
Rape is a traumatic event that will affect every aspect of your life – it touches you to the very depths of your soul and changes you forever. However, the story doesn’t have to end there. You are a different person as a result of your experience. However, by making a determined effort to work through the pain and live life on your terms, you can still have a wonderful, fulfilling life. While it may seem cliché to say, "whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger", the saying is very true. You are a survivor. You are in charge. You are stronger than ever before.
Take advantage of the trauma treatment and resources available to you. Seek support from those who love you, forgive yourself, get your feelings out, and take back your courage. You can’t change what happened to you, but you can choose to not let it define your life.