South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence

Getting back on track

For Family & Friends, Young People

Tags: Child Sexual Abuse, Mental Health, Rape

Author: South Eastern CASA

It is important for you to know that your reactions are normal and temporary reactions to an abnormal event.

The fear and confusion will lessen with time, but the trauma may disrupt your life for a while.  Some reactions may be triggered by people, places or things connected to the assault, while other reactions may seem to come from "out of the blue." Remember that no matter how much difficulty you're having dealing with the assault, it does not mean you're "going crazy" or becoming "mentally ill."

Talking about the assault will help you feel better, but may also be really hard to do. In fact, it's common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to "get on with life" and "let the past be the past." This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months. Eventually you will need to deal with your feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Talking with someone who can listen and understand - whether it's a friend, family member, CASA counsellor or therapist is a key part of this process.

It's important to understand that you may not be able to function at 100% capacity for a while following a major trauma like sexual assault. You may have problems concentrating or remembering things and may feel tired or edgy. You may also take longer to recover from everyday stresses, like when you go back to work or school too early after having the flu. Don't be too hard on yourself you need time to recover emotionally and that may reduce your energy for a while.

Ways to take care of yourself

Get support from friends and family.

  • Try to identify people you trust to validate your feelings.
  • Spend time with people who know your strengths and positive qualities.
  • Try not to isolate yourself.
  • Talk about the assault and express feelings - you can choose when, where, and with whom. You can also decide how much or how little to talk about.

Use:

  • Stress reduction techniques such as hard exercise like walking, jogging, biking, swimming, weight lifting;
  • Relaxation techniques like yoga, massage, music, prayer and/or meditation.

Maintain a balanced diet and sleep cycle and avoid overusing caffeine, sugar, nicotine, alcohol or other drugs.

Take "time outs."

  • Give yourself permission to take quiet moments to reflect, relax and rejuvenate, especially during times you feel stressed or unsafe.
  • Try reading. Reading can be a relaxing, healing activity. Try to find short periods of uninterrupted leisure reading time.

Release some of the hurt and anger in a healthy way.

  • Consider writing or journaling as a way of expressing thoughts and feelings.
  • Write a letter which is not to be sent, it's just for you. Write about how you feel about what happened to you. Be as specific as you can. When it's finished, keep it or destroy it, which ever feels right.
  • You also can draw pictures about the anger or hurt you feel as a way of releasing the emotional pain.

Remember you are safe, even if you don't feel it. The assault is over. It may take longer than you'd like, but we recommend you get into counselling. The CASA's are available and ready to assist you. The after hours Sexual Assault Crisis Line (1800 806 292) is also available if you'd prefer to remain anonymous or don't feel comfortable with coming in to a CASA.

How family & friends can help

After a sexual assault, the victim/survivor needs to:

  • Get medical attention
  • Know it wasn't their fault
  • Feel safe
  • Take control of their life
  • Be believed

Things a friend can do to help:

  • Listen, don't judge. Try to simply understand your friend's feelings.
  • Offer shelter. If possible, stay with them at their place or let them stay at yours.
  • Be there and give comfort. Your friend may need to talk a lot or at odd hours at the beginning. Be there as much as you can and encourage them to talk to others.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help.
  • Be patient. Don't try to rush the healing process or quickly "make it better."
  • Accept their choice of what to do about the sexual assault and don't be overly protective. Ask your friend what they need, help them to list their options, then encourage them to make their own decisions. Even if you disagree. It is very important that they make their own decisions and have them respected.
  • Put aside your feelings and get support for yourself. It may be too overwhelming for your friend to deal with your angry feelings on top of their own. If you have strong angry feelings or feelings of blame toward the survivor, talk to a friend or call a hotline such as Lifeline 13 11 14 or Kids helpline 1800 551 800.
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