Counseling for Survivors of Sexual Assault & Rape

Counseling for Survivors of Sexual Assault & Rape

Sexual Abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape are more than just illegal…they are devastating for the survivors.  According to RAINN, “Every 90 seconds, an American is sexually assault. And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.”

Common Mental Health Concerns for Survivors of Sexual Assault

No two people react to any given situation the same way.  Two people may have been raped by their boyfriends, but they may react completely differently due to personality traits, past experiences, support system and other factors.  So please, know that “normal” is a very wide range.  However, most survivors (both female & male) are distressed by sexual assault and rape.  Here are some of the common mental health concerns that might surface following sexual violence:

Counseling for Rape and Sexual Assault in Columbia, MO 65201

Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger and even guilt are common after sexual assault.

  • Sleep difficulties.  Sometimes survivors of have difficulty falling asleep.  Other times they may wake up from a nightmare or wake up in the middle of a panic attack.
  • Depression. Having someone take advantage of you and exert control over your physical body is difficult to cope with. It can create feelings of hopelessness or a sense of not having control even in other areas of your life. An individual might begin to question her own actions leading up to or during the assault and it’s common that negative self talk or low self esteem start to set in. There are also times where worry about seeing the attacker again can lead a survivor to begin to isolate herself and spend more time at home which can also increase depression. Depressive feelings may be mild and fleeting, or they can be intense and long-lasting.
  • Anxiety. Anxiety after any sort of trauma is very, very common. Survivors may fear the attack could happen again. Panic attacks are common. Others may develop agoraphobia where they become afraid to leave their homes.  I’ve seen this happen when a college student is raped by someone on campus and is afraid that if they leave their dorm or college apartment they will see their attacker. In some cases, a survivor may fear of the type of person who harmed them. For instance, if their attacker had short blonde hair they may begin to notice an increase in anxiety every time they see any male with short blonde hair even though they rationally know not everyone is their attacker.
  • Posttraumatic stress (PTSD). Someone who survived sexual assault may experience intense memories of the abuse in the form of flashbacks or nightmares. They may find themselves avoiding places or people that remind them of the rape.  It’s common for survivors to develop negative beliefs about themselves and the world around them.
  • Attachment and relationship issues. If one person has sexually abused, raped or assaulted you it can be difficult to trust anyone else. Survivors may find it challenging to form healthy attachments even with people they knew before the assault took place. Attachment issues are especially true among children who have been sexually abused, because they have not had as many positive experiences in relationships and are still learning how to view the world around them. Even adults who were abused as children may struggle with intimacy or be too eager to form close attachments.
  • Grief and Loss.  Someone who’s virginity was taken by rape will likely grieve their former self or what they had hoped for in a first sexual experience.  College students who were assaulted early in their college career and lived in fear of seeing their attacker on campus will grieve the freedom they hoped to have in college.  A professional who quit a great job due to chronic sexual harassment may grieve the career they’d envisioned for themselves.  Grief
  • Anger Outbursts.  Anger is very, very common after sexual assault and people often aren’t sure what to do with the anger.  This anger can be directed anywhere-the attacker, friends or family the survivor wishes had saved them, people completely unrelated to the actual assault or, most frequently, directed inward.  Survivors may find themselves acting in ways they don’t completely understand.  They may begin to say they “have an anger problem” not even realizing the connection between their strong emotions and the trauma.

Why See a Therapist Who Specializes in Helping Survivors of Sexual Assault & Rape?

Counseling for PTSD from sexual assault or rape in Columbia, MO 65201

Aspire Therapists can help you on your climb toward better mental health. You can be you again.

There are a lot of therapists who specialize in various trauma treatments.  However, sexual traumas can be very different from any other type of experiences.  Someone who has worked with others who have been raped or assaulted can help you navigate your emotions and give you a sense of hope.  They will understand some of the nuances that come with trauma treatment for rape, assault or sexual abuse.  These are uniquely horrific situations.  There also may be a comfort for you knowing that your therapist has “heard it all.”  When talking about a sexual trauma, you often have to talk about very sensitive things and knowing that your therapist is used to hearing about those things may make saying them out loud slightly easier.

At Aspire Counseling we believe in using our clinical expertise and personal experience to balance using effective treatments (see below) with YOUR wishes, needs, values and preferences.  We will support you every step of the way.  Our founder, Jessica, specializes specifically in treating survivors of sexual violence because she knows you can get better.  She’s been inspired by the women who have sat in her office and vulnerably shared their stories as they’ve sought healing and regained their strength.  Jessica has shared in their pain when the “system” has left dangerous men walking around on the city street or college campus.  She’s held the hand of women who are scared to leave the office.  Jessica’s created an office that has been a refuge to those seeking healing and added small touches like snacks for those who haven’t felt up to eating all day, essential oils to help ground survivors in the moment or coloring books to calm the mind.  Why? Because she understands the pain of sexual assault.  She understands that it is HARD to walk into our door and ask for help.  She’s also sought out other qualified trauma therapists who have the training and caring personality to care for survivors on their healing journey.

When you feel broken and hopeless, we can hold onto hope for you.  We believe in the healing power of good trauma therapy.  We’ve seen the strength of women who thought all of their strength was stolen.  We want to help.

What Type of Evidence Based Trauma Treatment Does Aspire Counseling Offer Survivors?

Every Aspire Counseling therapist is trained in at least one evidence based treatment for the issue(s) they specialize in.  We offer three research supported trauma treatments, all of which can help survivors of sexual assault and rape find healing and relief from PTSD symptoms.

First of all, it’s important to note that treatment moves at the pace you would like it to.  If you want to spend several weeks developing a comfort level in our office without “diving deep,” we are happy to focus for awhile on coping techniques.  If you’re having difficulty sleeping  or experiencing nightmares related to your trauma, we can begin with treating those.  On the other hand, if you are wanting to dive in and devote yourself fully to healing as fast as possible we can begin following a full trauma protocol very quickly.

Below I will describe three of the research supported trauma treatments used for survivors of sexual trauma at Aspire Counseling:

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is often the first treatment Jessica will use with survivors of sexual assault or rape, particularly if the trauma was recent.  CPT was developed by Dr. Patricia Resick beginning in the late 1980s when she lived in St. Louis and worked at Washington University for treatment of PTSD in survivors of sexual violence.  Since then, Dr. Resick’s team has grown and done wonderful research on the effectiveness of CPT including comparing it to other forms of trauma treatment.  The official CPT website explains that Cognitive Processing Therapy, “has been shown to be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms related to a variety of traumatic events including child abuse, combat, rape and natural disasters. CPT is endorsed by the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, as well as the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, as a best practice for the treatment of PTSD.”

This treatment focuses heavily on looking at beliefs a person has developed about their trauma and the world around them helping survivors examine those beliefs to identify which are helpful and which can be reframed.  It is well researched and uniquely developed to target the specific difficulties faced by survivors of sexual assault.

Prolonged Exposure (PE)

Prolonged Exposure (PE) is the other (CPT being the first) PTSD treatment endorsed and used by the VA.  Prolonged Exposure is the most intense type of therapy a person can go through.  It involves meeting twice a week (or once a week for 90 minutes) and once the “meat and potatoes” of the treatment starts, about half of that time is spent telling the story of the traumatic experience over and and over again.  Yes, this means that the survivor has to tell the therapist the intimate details of their rape or sexual assault.  It is as difficult as it sounds.  One CBS news story admits is “sounds sadistic,” but they also point out that it works.

Prolonged Exposure was the first evidence based therapeutic intervention directly targeting trauma that Jessica learned.  To this day, she often sheds a few tears the first time a client goes through their trauma narrative in session.  But it’s also an incredibly effective treatment.  Individuals living with unbearable PTSD get better in a matter of a few months!  It’s incredible.  Those who make the commitment to stick with this intense treatment find relief from their PTSD symptoms and healing relatively quickly.

This treatment is very effective, but is most clearly the right choice if someone has been through other trauma therapies without much relief or if it has been many years since the trauma occurred.  An example might be someone who was sexually molested as a child and is now an adult still living with intrusive memories, nightmares and flashbacks.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is a newer trauma therapy that is getting a lot of attention for having excellent results.  Treatment typically targets three different areas: past memories, present disturbance, and future actions.  Though it is semi new, research on EMDR shows that it can be very effective and individuals who have been through EMDR often rave about the results.  We have an entire page devoted to EMDR if you are interested in learning more.

Mental Health Blog Posts About Sexual Assault & Rape

FREE PTSD E-Course

What makes a stressful experience “traumatic?” What do people really mean when they say PTSD? How can I keep memories of the past from interfering in my day to day life? How do I even begin to move forward?

I answer these questions and so much more in my Free 3 week E-Course on Traumatic Stress & PTSD.  Helping others find healing from traumatic experiences has long been a passion of mine.  I’ve helped survivors of rape, women who were sexually assaulted, individuals adjusting to major injuries, people who have been shaken by watching someone die and people who were in serious car accidents.  But I want to be able to help an even larger number of people.  It is my hope that this series will allow me to help many more people recovering from trauma begin to feel better faster.

***Coming Soon-An E-course specifically for survivors of Sexual Assault!  It’s not here yet, so this general PTSD course is a great way to start, but send an e-mail to Jessica@aspirecounselingMO.com if you want to hear when the specific sexual trauma e-course is released***

Call Today for PTSD Treatment

Aspire Counseling has several therapists who specialize in treating PTSD.  All of our trauma therapists are trained and experienced using at least one evidence based PTSD treatment such as Prolonged Exposure (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) or Acceptance and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). That’s a lot of different acronyms, but the bottom line is this: we offer effective treatment so you can find emotional freedom and healing. You don’t have to face this journey alone. People do recover and learn to live a meaningful, peaceful life even after unimaginable trauma. Please reach out and let a therapist help you begin counseling right away so you can get back to living.

If you are considering counseling for PTSD, please contact us today to discuss how counseling services can help you move forward. Healing starts here.

Counseling for Sexual Assault & Rape in Columbia, MO

Take the first steps today by calling 573-328-2288 to find peace and self love so you can BE YOU AGAIN.
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