Sexual trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it looks like rape or sexual abuse. Sometimes it looks like infidelity, a sexual affair, or an emotional affair. Whatever it looks like, many of the feelings are similar and the impact it has on a person’s sexuality or a couples’ sexual relationship can be similar as well. While being raped or sexually abused and being cheated on are not the same, what is the same is the fact that in both cases you feel like a victim and in both cases the feelings of victimization must be processed – that is, the sexual trauma, violation, infidelity, needs to be talked about and the questions that have been left hanging about the traumatic event need to be asked and worked through.
Whether a victim of something sex related, a violent crime, or a witness of something traumatic, my clients have many questions related to the traumatic event.
Unfortunately, many of their questions cannot be completely answered. However, what I have often found to be more important, clarifying, and healing is just being able to ask the questions out loud in a safe environment with someone who is willing to listen and normalize the thoughts and feelings associated with the questions. It’s also figuring out or processing why they feel an answer is needed or what that answer would provide them. Sometimes this is just enough to help victims of sexual abuse, rape, or betrayal to start moving past the trauma.
People who were victims of sexual trauma or something devastating often keep the trauma inside and never want to talk about the rape, sexual abuse, or crime for fear that talking about it will make it worse. While talking about things isn’t always the cure-all and sometimes it does feels worse at first, ultimately if you learn effective tools to cope with the difficult feelings that come up when talking about and processing the rape, sexual abuse, or crime, it becomes smaller, less scary, less a part of us, and more a part of something that no longer defines us. People feel lighter, can move on to being more vulnerable and find more satisfaction in their relationships. When we hold horrible things inside of us like a secret, it starts to define us and get bigger. Getting it out is what makes it less scary. It’s like watching a scary film, the more you watch the same movie, the less scary it is right? This can be incredibly empowering. I have seen it and the bottom line is … talking can be healing.