Trauma, Sexual Assault, & Sexual Abuse

Coping with Trauma

Most of us have lives filled with ups and downs, bringing joy, sadness, and a variety of other emotional experiences. Sometimes, however, something happens that’s so horrible and unthinkable, that it shocks a person to the core, changing them forever. When such traumatic events occur, a person can feel helpless and out of control. Normal coping and problem-solving responses do not seem to apply to their situation.

People can be traumatized by events such as victimization in a robbery, sexual assault, domestic violence, childhood abuse, a serious car accident, a sudden natural disaster that leaves one homeless, and wartime events. They can also be traumatized by simply seeing something happen that seriously hurts or threatens another person’s physical or emotional well-being. Long-term and repeated exposure to traumatic events can be particularly challenging in its impact.

People react to trauma in many different ways, depending on their personalities and life experiences. Some people may feel the effects immediately; others may find that they react days, weeks, months, or even years later in some cases.

Some Common Reactions to Trauma

  • Numbness and confusion
  • Feeling unreal
  • Hypervigilance
  • Easy startle response
  • Irritability/anger
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Intense distress in situations that remind one of the traumatic event
  • Recurrent thoughts/memories/images of the event
  • Repetitive dreams, nightmares related to the event
  • Efforts to avoid anything that reminds one of the event
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Low energy
  • Sense of detachment from others
  • Various somatic complaints such as muscle aches

Trauma makes a person feel vulnerable and uncertain about who and what they can trust. This can lead to a variety of behaviors. Some people may try to control events by assuming excess responsibility; others may avoid responsibility due to loss of self-confidence. Some people withdraw, while others engage in increased social activity and substance use to cope with their emotional pain. Victims of repeated trauma in the context of relationships, such as childhood sexual abuse, may struggle w/ long-term issues related to self-esteem, their body, intimacy, and sexuality.

What helps with healing?

  • Understanding the impact of trauma on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels
  • Normalizing your reactions
  • Praising yourself for having survived
  • Talking about difficult feelings and experiences w/ caring others
  • Journaling about your experience
  • Learning deep relaxation skills
  • Caring for yourself through nurturing activities
  • Exercise and good nutrition
  • Gaining perspective on your experience to help you gently face fears
  • Staying involved in important life activities and relationships
  • Seeking spiritual support
  • Using counseling and support groups for help.

The Counseling Center is available to help you in your recovery.  For more information, visit How To Make An Appointment.

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