Sexual assault is a violation of a person’s body and capacity for self-determination. It can radically affect the survivor, and every sexual assault survivor’s experience is different. The information provided here includes some of the common reactions to sexual assault, but is not meant to be prescriptive in any way. Perhaps you have told a friend or a family member, people who are close to you and can be supportive throughout this ordeal. You may also have met with a counselor, or have thought about going to a counselor but not yet taken that step. You might feel that there is no one you can trust. It is important for you to know that you are not alone, that you will get through this time in your life, and that there are people who can help you through the healing process.
How to Take Care of Yourself
Get support from friends and family, from people who know you and can validate your feelings. If you talk to someone and they don’t make you feel good about yourself, don’t be afraid to try someone else. Some people know how to say the right thing and others just don’t. Your family can provide support, assistance, and encouragement. Because they are your family, they may also try to protect you or make decisions for you. The reasons for doing this are varied, but it may feel suffocating, stifling, and controlling. It’s important for them to understand that you need to take control and make decisions for yourself.
You should choose when, where, and with whom to talk about the assault. Set limits by only disclosing information that you feel comfortable about revealing. Some survivors decide to report the assault to the local police, while others decide to file a formal complaint through the university’s equity grievance process. Some choose to pursue both options. Whatever you decide, make sure it is your choice and not the choice of friends or family members. A staff person can talk with you about your options and support you as you make your own decision. They will not encourage or discourage you from reporting or pressing charges. That choice is yours.
Keeping a journal is one way of giving voice to your thoughts and feelings.
Exercises like jogging, aerobics, and walking can reduce stress. Relaxation practices like yoga, massage, music, and hot baths can reduce stress. Prayer and/or meditation can be relaxing. Engage in creative activities, anything you enjoy. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and plenty of sleep. Avoid overusing stimulants like caffeine, or depressants like alcohol.
Recognize that there will be times when you are stressed and unable to function as efficiently as you might wish. This is normal. Give yourself time and seek support from those who care for you whenever you are feeling overwhelmed.
Source: The Path Toward Recovery for Survivors of Sexual Violence, Syracuse University