Dealing With Rape: 5 Keys to Growth and Healing for Women! No woman should have to endure the trauma of rape, no matter who she is, what she does or what her beliefs. But, rape does occur and when it does, the impact is devastating. However, recovery from the trauma is possible. How well you will recover depends largely on the steps you take after the rape. By following the tips below, you will be much more likely to gain perspective, heal from the trauma, and be able to move forward with a greater sense of control over your life.
- Acknowledge it. Say aloud that you were raped. It may feel scary at first, but trust me—eventually it will likely feel empowering. In the beginning, it’s important to be selective about whom you tell. Some people are caught up in their own issues and thus unable to respond in an appropriately supportive manner. Your safest bet is a therapist. Many therapists are trained in helping you through rape recovery and are able to be supportive and compassionate. Best friends also tend to be pretty supportive and empathetic listeners. Start with one or, better yet, both. A rape crisis hotline is a good choice, too. (Note: If you were recently raped, going to the hospital for a rape exam and police report is an important first step.)
- Nurture yourself. It is very important to nurture yourself throughout this process. Be kind to yourself (don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend who was raped); be gentle with yourself; be patient with yourself; and do healthy things that make you feel good (a scented bubble bath, new hairstyle, exercise and yoga, buying yourself some flowers, etc.).
- Discover how you feel and get it out. There are two options for this step, and doing both is better than just one: write about your rape and talk about it. Talk about your rape with your therapist. Tell the story a few times. Tell it from different angles (for example, one time talk about what you were thinking and feeling, then another time talk about what your rapist was doing and saying). Tell a few more close friends, if you feel comfortable doing so. It’s OK to tell them that you don’t want or expect them to treat you any differently, but that you appreciate their sympathetic listening. Write in a journal. Perhaps even write a letter to your rapist. (In the vast majority of cases, it’s probably best not to send the letter—that’s something you can discuss with your therapist—but the act of writing the letter can be beneficial and help you sort through your feelings.)
- Learn. Learn about what other women have experienced. Learn about what is typical for you to be feeling, even if your experience was unique (and it was). Learn how to acknowledge and tolerate your difficult feelings. How can you do this? My favorite ways are books, workbooks, and support groups. Blogs, too! There is probably a sexual assault treatment center and/or support group in your city. Go check it out. Lean on others.
- Nurture yourself! Go back to Step 2! It can take a few years, and perhaps decades, to work through a rape. (Some might never quite work through it, but the important thing to remember is that it’s possible.) It’s important not to focus on it every day, while at the same time not ignoring your feelings. Staying the course will help you make progress and heal.