Posted on: April 18, 2019 | Dr. Todd Thatcher The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), this month is “a campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it.” Unfortunately, sexual assault and violence are still prevalent, which only magnifies the importance of raising awareness. A key factor to prevent sexual assault is the knowledge that healthy sexual activity always starts with consent. It is important to understand that consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. It is important to receive a “Yes” before starting physical activity instead of thinking that behavior is okay unless someone says “No!” Many survivors of sexual assault fear that if they tell people they will not be believed or they will be blamed for what happened. Family members, friends, and professionals can provide a more helpful response to follow the strategy of Start by Believing. The NSVRC reports some shocking statistics regarding sexual assault: In the United States, one in five women and one in 71 men will experience rape at some point in their lives One in three women and one in six men will experience a form of sexual violence in their lifetime 51.1% of female and 52.4% of male survivors report being raped by an intimate partner 91% of rape and sexual assault survivors are women and 9% are male 63% of sexual assaults are never reported to the police With rape being the most under-reported crime, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is more critical than ever. Raising awareness is especially important to the healing process of survivors. The NSVRC reports that 81% of women and 35% of men report both short-term and long-term PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) following sexual assault. At Highland Springs Specialty Clinic, we are proud to offer trauma and PTSD therapy as part of the sexual assault recovery process. However, we understand that recovery after trauma is not as simple as it sounds and there are many different factors involved. Since this month is about raising awareness, we want to contribute by bringing light to recovery and how we are helping survivors take steps towards recovery. PTSD and Sexual Assault As survivors of sexual violence and assault can attest, the impact can be lasting. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common side effect and can manifest in many different ways. PTSD is categorized by the American Psychological Association (APA) as an “emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, and natural disasters.” Common symptoms of trauma and PTSD include: Depression Intrusive Memories Flashbacks Nightmares Eating Disorders Anxiety Numbness Suicidal Thoughts Guilt Self-Harm Substance Abuse The amount and intensity of these symptoms vary from person to person. Some may experience a lot of symptoms, while others will notice just a few. If these symptoms are beginning to hinder your everyday life, it is probably time to seek help. It’s important to recognize and acknowledge that PTSD is not a survivor’s fault and can be successfully managed. How Therapy Assists with Sexual Assault Recovery Therapy and therapeutic techniques can greatly help in the sexual assault recovery process. Help and healing can come from the open, non-judgmental space that is there for you to work through any challenges or problems. By learning to cope with your feelings and underlying problems, you can learn to successfully handle your feelings and go back to your normal life. At Highland Springs Specialty Clinic, we have two methods in helping survivors overcome post-traumatic stress disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy One method used at Highland Springs Specialty Clinic is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is a crucial component as it is designed to identify the root of the trauma. Our treatment center focuses on learning how to identify your triggers in the world that can cause agitation and fear. By identifying these triggers, your therapist works with you to replace these harmful thoughts with more accurate ones, which then allows the trauma to fade into the past and simply become a memory. Desensitization Therapy Another technique is desensitization therapy. This is when a person verbalizes their traumatic experience in a safe, therapeutic environment which then allows emotions intertwined to the event to be felt then released. This heals the brain a bit at a time, so flashbacks decrease as well as other symptoms related to the trauma. By getting a survivor to accept what has happened, place it in the past, and begin living a more satisfying lifestyle is an effective treatment in moving forward and learning to cope with PTSD. Continuing Recovery After Trauma Treatment through therapy is just one step in the ongoing process of recovery after trauma. There is no right or wrong method in treating any symptoms or handling your experience. While we believe trauma and PTSD therapy is crucial, there are other methods that can be helpful in your process of recovery: Get involved in your local community in helping other survivors Help raise awareness about sexual violence Find ways to work towards preventing sexual assault Start getting involved in changing laws and policies about sexual assault crimes and treatment of survivors If you’re ready, become an advocate for sexual assault survivors It may seem scary at first, but when you’re ready, helping other survivors can lead to a sense of empowerment and healing. Learning to live with PTSD can seem overwhelming and scary, but with a strong support system and helpful counseling, you can find happiness again. As the month of April continues on, remember to help spread awareness and help other voices be heard throughout Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If you’re interested in the help of Highland Springs Specialty Clinic, our knowledgeable and trustworthy counselors are here to assist you in working through your trauma, as well as overcome your post-traumatic stress disorder. Learn how you can get involved in Sexual Assault Awareness Month in your area, and help other survivors overcome their challenges. Remember, if you are a survivor, you are not alone and there are others who are feeling just like you. However, it is possible to find happiness again. If you or a loved one is looking for help or assistance in overcoming trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder, please contact us at Highland Springs Specialty Clinic and let us help you get your life back. We have a variety of therapists and specialists, so we can find the perfect fit for you. Schedule a confidential counseling appointment today!