My Career as a Therapist Working With Women
The majority of my career has been dedicated to providing PTSD treatment to women. When in grad school, I worked for a women’s health research program. After grad school, I worked running a women’s residential PTSD program at the VA. And presently, while I do see all genders in my practice, I work with a lot of women.
Because of this, the majority of my career has also been working with women who are survivors of sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Statistics
Today we’re talking about sexual assault survivors specifically on college campuses. It’s not a surprise that sexual assault happens frequently. In fact, about 25% of college women report sexual assault (defined as nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent) during their college career. About 23% of gay, trans, or non-binary students reported sexual assault. Overall, about 13% of all college students report having been sexually assaulted. These reported numbers are presumed to be lower than actual numbers given the low likelihood of reporting sexual assault.
Even still, these numbers are far bigger than they ever should be. Please know that if you have gone through something like this, you most certainly are not alone.
Therapy for Sexual Assault Can Help
But more importantly, you don’t have to continue suffering.
I often hear of sexual assaults occur when one or both parties have been drinking and are intoxicated. When this happens, it’s almost guaranteed that the sexual assault survivor blames themselves for drinking and somehow contributing to their own assault. Along with this often comes the overwhelming need to move past it, shove it down, and try to forget about it. Unfortunately, while this may work in the short term, this will not work for long.
Survivors of Sexual Assault often feel a great deal of self-blame following an assault. The “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” wheels keep spinning.
Things they may be thinking include:
If only I hadn’t gone.
Or if only I hadn’t been drinking.
If only I hadn’t been flirting.
I should have fought harder.
Did I actually say no?
I could’ve left earlier.
The list goes on. Once this starts, it can be really difficult to focus on much of anything. Often, survivors notice a disruption in relationships close to them. This can be for multiple reasons, but ultimately the feeling of loneliness can become overwhelming. Sometimes folx will become more withdrawn, or sometimes, the opposite can happen like going out all the time to try to forget.
Anxiety and Depression Related to Sexual Assault
Things like feeling more anxious and/or depressed are common, too. It can often become hard to feel as interested or motivated in things that once were fun. Self-esteem often takes a hit. After a sexual assault, it can be difficult to know who we can trust- even trusting ourselves and our own judgment.
Sexual Assault is a Trauma That Can be Processed With the Help of Therapy for Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is a trauma that has a higher likelihood of leading to long-term problems like post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Given the intimate nature of such trauma, coupled by the likelihood of guilt and shame following an assault, PTSD can develop.
It can be hard to know what to do. Often, we’ll try to just give it time to get better, but if it’s PTSD, time will not help. The good news, however, is that PTSD is a treatable condition. No, we cannot delete the trauma that has led to PTSD, however, you do not have to live with the symptoms that you’re dealing with. Those are highly treatable.
Reach out for Help if You are a Sexual Assault Survivor
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, please reach out to your campus’s mental health services. They are often great at offering general support. If you need more specialized help, please contact someone who specializes in PTSD and who has expertise in sexual assault. There are treatments that will work to not only help you to process what has happened in order to heal but to also find hope again. If you are in Ohio, Kentucky, or New York, I am happy to meet with you for a consultation to see if we’d be a good fit for therapy.
There is Hope for Healing and Growth
Treatment is evidence-based, time-limited, and results-focused. The most effective PTSD treatments take about 12 weeks, so you do not have to be in therapy indefinitely because of what happened to you. You are allowed to heal, grow, and move forward in your life in a positive manner.
We are not what happens to us. And we are not our past trauma. We get to decide what defines us, how we heal, and our path forward. You are not alone, hope and healing are possible.
Therapy for Sexual Assault Survivors
Know that hope and healing are possible, and that PTSD is treatable. The past does not have to control your present or your future. With effective treatments available, you’ll no longer be haunted by what happened, but instead, you’ll begin to create a life that feels worth living. Effective PTSD treatment is available through Thrive Therapy, my practice serving Ohio and Kentucky. Contact me today using the steps below to find the relief you need to live the life you want.