Sexual trauma is not easy to define. Not all sexual trauma is violent in nature. Instead, in many cases, a person is sexually assaulted only with the threat of harm or embarrassment. Thus, it is safe to say that any act of sexual harassment, being pressured to perform a sexual activity or being touched inappropriately, that makes the person involved feel helpless or leaves him or her with a sense of fear, can cause sexual trauma. This can be one event, or a series of events. In such cases, though the situations may be similar, each person responds in a unique way.
The first step that needs to be taken to recover from sexual trauma is to acknowledge that the fault lies not with you, but with the aggressor.
Avoid replaying the situation in your mind and beating yourself up about what you could have done, and instead validate yourself of surviving such an incident. It is always easier to see what could have been done once the situation has passed, but such insight is rarely there when you are being attacked. Do not allow anyone to tell you that you ‘asked for it’ or that it was your fault in any way.
Your own safety must be a priority.
If you are in an unsafe relationship or feel threatened at home; leave immediately and get to a place where you feel safe. This could be a friend or family member’s home or a center for sexual trauma.
Along with physical safety, your emotional safety is also a concern.
It is often difficult to deal with sexual trauma on your own. Consult a mental health professional or psychiatrist to help you deal with your fears, before it overcomes you and becomes a phobia. Some people respond to sexual trauma by turning to substance abuse or by harming themselves by restricting food, or cutting themselves etc. This is a sign that you are feeling out of control. In such cases, a counselor or psychiatrist will first address this self harm behavior before dealing with the trauma itself.
It is important to surround yourself with friends and loved ones in such a situation.
Their support can be very comforting and help you recover from the horrific memories of the incident. Do not isolate yourself, but force yourself to get out. Meeting people and talking to them will make you feel better. Participate in activities you enjoy even if you don’t feel up to it.
Lastly, find ways to relax and calm your mind.
Breathing exercises such as pranayama can be very helpful in dealing with stress caused by the trauma. You could also try imagery exercises that involve imagining peaceful scenes that make you feel positive and relaxed.