Treating Trauma: Sexual Assault Awareness Isn’t a Trend

Despite the recent rise of the #MeToo Movement and the contribution it has made to re-invigorate the cause of sexual assault awareness, this important issue is still not taken as seriously as it should be. Every April, we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month and this event has been happening since the ’70s. However, now that April has come and gone, that doesn’t mean advocating for sexual assault awareness should end. Awareness does not have an expiration date. For someone seeking trauma treatment after experiencing sexual assault, it’s important for them to feel heard and that their story matters – and it does. So, even though April is over, it’s crucial to continue educating and raising awareness.

The Impact of Sexual Assault

Trauma treatment at Highland Springs

If you think sexual assault hasn’t affected you, think again. The CDC reports that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact. This is not including sexual harassment statistics and the many unreported assaults. These women and men are members of families and communities that have been impacted the trauma of sexual assault. The effects of trauma can be personal and widespread, it can disrupt the survivor and their families’ daily lives.

Sexual assault awareness and prevention is not simple. There are many confusing questions including:

 

  • Why don’t some survivors report?
  • What constitutes consent?
  • How can we prevent this type of violence?

 

This a tricky area to navigate. The simple answer is some survivors don’t report out of fear. This can be a fear of what others will think, fear that they won’t be believed, or even fear of their attacker. Consent is easier to understand: no means no. This also includes clarifying that anything that happens is agreed upon and all parties feel comfortable. Prevention should be simple, but unfortunately, is not. This is why raising awareness is more critical than ever. 

 

Sexual assault and violence can leave both physical and emotional scars. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is extremely common among survivors, as well as other behavioral health issues. Trauma treatment can be necessary to overcome past events and has helped countless people. Before treatment can be effective, it’s important to understand that there are different types of trauma that can be harming.

Simple vs. Complex Trauma

Survivors often feel that others who have not experienced sexual assault cannot understand what they are going through. Many are not believed, which is why reporting is so low. This is a direct response to the effects of trauma and secondary trauma.

Understand the effects of secondary trauma can help us see why making a difference can be so challenging. Secondary trauma often gives those who are trying to help a sense that they can never do enough, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, an inability to embrace the complexity of the problem. According to Laura van Dernoot Lipsky of The Trauma Stewardship Institute, this can lead to:

 

  • Minimizing
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Increased physical ailment
  • Inability to listen
  • Direct avoidance
  • Disassociation
  • Sense of persecution
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Increased addictions

 

Perhaps the biggest problem with secondary trauma is the cynicism, inability to empathize or numbness to the situation it can create. Which is why movements like #MeToo and Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness are so important.

The Importance of Counseling for Trauma

Counseling for trauma

Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health and treatment is what prevents many from seeking the trauma treatment they need. If you or a loved one has been affected by sexual assault or violence, a critical step in your or their healing is to seek treatment. As a mental health center in Utah, Highland Springs has many experienced and highly-trained counselors who can help with PTSD or other types of trauma. Through proven methods, they are able to provide assistance. This is done through a variety of ways, but most commonly cognitive behavioral therapy and desensitization therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This treatment is critical as it identifies the root of the trauma. A counselor will focus on identifying thoughts about the world that cause agitation and fear from the past to focus. Once these are identified, the therapist works with the patient to replace these triggers with more accurate thoughts. This allows the trauma to fade into the past and simply become a memory. While this may sound scary, it is an important part of an effective recovery.

Desensitization Therapy

In a safe environment, the patient will tell the story of the traumatic event, which allows emotions related to the event to be heard, felt, and released. While this may sound like another daunting method, this actually allows the brain itself to heal. Over time, this decreases flashbacks and trauma-related symptoms. Highland Springs Specialty Clinic believes in helping survivors accept what has happened, leave it in the past, and begin living a more healthy and forward-thinking lifestyle.

Continue Raising Awareness and Advocating for Trauma Treatment

Mental health treatment center in Utah

So, although April is over, raising awareness about sexual assault is not over. Continue educating, advocating, and speaking out against sexual assault, as well as help survivors seek treatment for their traumatic experience. There are a variety of ways to be there for your survivor, including:

 

  • Avoiding judgment
  • Checking in on them from time to time
  • Finding helpful resources
  • Let them know you are there for them
  • Encourage self-care

 

As one of the premier mental health treatment centers in Utah, Highland Springs Specialty Clinic has a highly trained staff that is prepared and experienced in helping sexual assault victims. Raising awareness never stops. Educate yourself and others, and learn how you can help in your community through organizations like RAINN and UCASA. If you or a loved one is seeking help, please contact us today and schedule a confidential counseling appointment. Highland Springs Specialty Clinic is here to help you find happiness again.

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AUTHOR: Dr. Todd Thatcher

Dr. Todd Thatcher has worked at Valley for 8 years and has been the Chief Medical Officer for 5 years. He is triple board certified in forensic psychiatry, general psychiatry, and addiction medicine. Currently, Dr. Thatcher is passionate about the high-quality training of our employees and generating and tracking as much clinical data as possible to improve processes and procedures for increased ease, accessibility, and ultimately to better serve our clients and provide the best care possible.

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