Sexual assault refers to any unwanted sexual touch, comments or behaviour. Many men and women have coped with the trauma of their assault by discounting it and telling themselves that it “wasn’t that bad”, or “it wasn’t as bad as so and so.”
Neither of these thoughts is true, they are simply coping strategy thoughts. If you have experienced any unwanted/uninvited sexual touch, comments or behaviour at any age in your life, from any one, you have experienced a sexual assault.
Your experience of assault directly undermines your sense of security in the world and leads you to create a perspective on the event that psychologists call “self-blame.”
Self-blame is a pattern that trauma survivors display as a means of feeling some sense of power and security after the traumatic situation.
You see, if a person can tell themselves that they should have called for help, or they should have told someone, or they shouldn’t have worn that particular outfit etc. they can feel that they had some power to make the situation different.
That sense of empowerment after a trauma is helpful to the survivor as it allows them to maintain a sense of strength and feel somewhat safe in the world for a time.
Unfortunately, if that coping strategy of self-blame is allowed to continue much past the first week after the initial trauma it becomes harmful.
In those situations, the trauma has passed but you are still blaming yourself; making yourself responsible. You are no longer in that terrifying situation but you are forcing yourself to relive that trauma frequently with your thoughts that you somehow did or didn’t do something to prevent the situation: You are telling yourself that somehow it was your fault.
It was not your fault. No one has the right, under any circumstances, to touch you or speak to you in any way that you don’t want. You have the right to say “no” with words or body language and have that “no” respected.
Childhood Sexual Assault
When sexual assault occurs in childhood, the survivor usually has no recourse. In many cases no one knows about the abuse, or wants to know, and the child is forced to silently endure a betrayal for which they feel responsible.
Issues that stem from childhood sexual abuse are: post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, a fear of sexual development and low self-esteem.
Understandably, many survivors turn to coping strategies to block out the pain, such as: alcoholism, drug abuse, food and body image focus, self-injury, compulsive sexual behavior or a combination of the above.
Assault Survivors and Emotional Trauma
Survivors of a sexual assault that occurred in adulthood are just as likely to encounter severe emotional trauma.
After an assault by a stranger, acquaintance, spouse or loved one, it’s normal for women to display symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder such as hyper-vigilance, depression, anxiety, disconnect from their emotions, self-blame, and worst case scenario thinking.
All of which are coping strategies that we human beings use to take the focus off the trauma and put it onto something that feels safer or more manageable. The underlying trauma and those aspects of post traumatic stress also frequently lead us to use food as a coping strategy.
At least half of the world’s female population (51%), have been victims of at least one act of physical or sexual violence. Women aren’t alone; one in six men know the pain of sexual assault as well.
Consider those statistics while you also consider the fact that sexual assault leads us to use to the coping strategies of depression, anxiety, worst-case scenario thinking, self-blaming, numbing to our feelings, co-dependency, drug and alcohol dependencies, food and body image focus and other harmful coping strategies.
Healing from sexual abuse and releasing the patterns we survivors have used to cope with the trauma and pain of an assault requires courage and a safe, supportive environment. At the CEDRIC Centre our mission is to provide compassionate care that helps survivors mend their hearts and safely integrate body and mind.
As long as you have an unhealed sexual trauma in your past you will continue to feel unsafe and insecure in your world and in your relationships.
This can lead to a life half-lived as you allow your fear to drive your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It also, inevitably, will lead you to continue to need food and body image focus to cope and to distance yourself from the trauma.
If you are truly committed to a life free from using food as a coping strategy in any way at all, you must also commit yourself to healing your past trauma.
We are here to support your transition from that old fearful, life-robbing way of being in the world, to the new, safe, secure, confident you.
Let us be there for you. Contact us and begin to reclaim your life today.
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