How to Heal After Rape: 15 Possibilities From A Sexual Assault Survivor
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2019,a survivor shares ways that helped her heal after rape.
Author’s Note: Everyone’s journey and healing work will look differently, recovering from sexual trauma is an intimate, individualized process. I wrote this because I think it is important for survivors to be able to talk openly about healing and what has worked for them to give survivors ideas and additional options. For example, it took years for me to learn about the medication for nightmares. I hope to make the process faster and easier for future survivors and not shrouded in secrecy.
I reported the rape, completed a rape kit, did Plan B and went to 6 months of STD Testing.
2. I tried multiple therapists till I found a good fit, who could meet me after work and also didn’t treat perpetrators, so I wouldn’t be in a waiting room or parking garage with a sexual predator.
3. I did weekly therapy for years. Therapy included Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which concentrates on altering the way the person responds to the negative feelings that arise because of PTSD. I also did (EDMR) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR is a type of therapy that works by having the person think of a traumatic memory or experience, hold that thought in their mind, and then focus their eyes on some other type of stimulus, like a flashing light or tapping. The goal is to retrain the mind to disassociate from the traumatic feelings.
4. I Found psychiatrist and went on SSRIs, and medication for depression, anxiety and sleep, nightmares (Prazosin really helped me stop vivid nightmares).
5. I took an extended vacation from social media since it could be triggering and my grief would sometimes just spill out and it would become a cycle of anger, grief, embarrassment and anxiety.
6. I had trouble leaving the house or being in crowds or even the supermarket without a panic attack so I researched service dogs for PTSD and sexual assault. I learned that waitlists for service dogs could take years and tens of thousands of dollars so I identified a golden retriever puppy via personality testing and raised him with first group training and then individualized training. That way I had a dog sooner and it cost less then getting a fully trained dog,
7. My Safe Person: I realize not everyone is lucky enough to have supportive partner, or even someone they feel safe sharing with but I had a great partner that stood by me and supported me for years as I slowly worked my way back. I credit my hard work, my service dog Magnus, and my partner for bringing me back from the brink.If you could identify a safe person that you can share with, it makes the journey less isolating.
8. I ordered a custom weighted blanket (it’s supposed to be a specific percentage of your body weight to be effective for PTSD).
9. I tried acupuncture for stress,anxiety,depression and PTSD.
10. I started an anonymous online survey for rape survivors which asks about real-world symptoms, not just clinical medical outcomes, i.e. if a survivor struggled at work or in relationships or gained or lost weight.
11. Starting Sunlight Retreats for Survivors of rape taught me so much more than I could have imagined. Nationally recognized Trauma Specialist Dr. Shiva Ghaed’s trauma education taught me more in a weekend than 5 years of therapy. And my growing network of survivors feels like an unseen blanket of support and understanding. I see their faces now instead of my attacker.
12. After the first Sunlight retreat I realized I was still practicing a lot of avoidance with triggers and I continue to work on exposure therapy for places, people and things that remind me of the attack as homework so I can 100 percent move past my trauma.
13. I drink Natural Calm, a magnesium powder available on Amazon and Health Food stores. Magnesium has a lot of great properties,and has helped soften the edge of my PTSD.
14. I take fish oil supplements (my doctor recommended the brand Nordic Naturals for purity) and eat lots of blueberries, both of which have scientifically been proven to help combat PTSD.
15. I read books like In The Evil Hours and Sunlight Retreat’s volunteer and Las Vegas Massacre Survivor Dr. Shiva Ghaed’s Free book ROUTE 91: Healing from Mass Violence and Trauma that explain the science of trauma to better understand what I am going through.
To all survivors, I see you trying to heal, even by reading this and I know you can do it! It took a lot for me to leave my apartment, and talk about it, and go public…it is a journey. I thought I would never get back to who I was before the rape, and while I am not that person, I am proud of the person I have become six years later. I send you sunlight!
Brittany Catton Kirk, Survivor
Founder of Sunlight Retreats. Applications for the August Sunlight Retreat are available until April 15, 2019.