Are You Ready To Process Pain And Heal From Sexual Trauma?
Are you struggling to move past a disempowering sexual experience? Perhaps this is a secret you’ve kept for years, even since childhood. Are distressing memories and feelings associated with the assault interrupting your ability to feel safe, stable and calm? Perhaps you’re confused about sexuality and intimacy and want process and expel feelings of shame, blame and anger in order to engage in healthy relationships. You may be struggling with low self-esteem, disconnection from your body and/or flashbacks, as well as sleeping through the night or eating regular balanced meals. Since the assault, have you abstained completely from sex or engaged in risky sexual behavior? Have you turned to harmful ways of coping with distress, such as using alcohol or drugs in excess? As rumination, cyclical thoughts and unpredictable emotions become increasingly unmanageable, you may desperately crave a path to harmony, healing and relief.
No matter when the assault occurred, sexual trauma can disrupt your ability to complete daily tasks, maintain employment and healthy relationships and feel safe and grounded in your body. Sexual abuse can bring on symptoms related to PTSD, complex PTSD, dissociative disorders, panic disorder, depression and anxiety. These include a myriad of different thoughts, feelings and body sensations, such as: lethargy, hypervigilance, hypersensitivity, heart palpitations, flashbacks, nightmares, numbness, avoidance, lack of motivation and feeling disconnected with others and the world around you. Sexual assault can also dramatically alter your sex drive—either by depleting arousal entirely or leading to out-of-control sexual behavior. Regardless of your signs or symptoms, you may be living life in a very limiting way. Perhaps you are moving through the world with a persistent, underlying sense of discomfort that dims the quality of everything you experience and makes it difficult to believe things could change for the better.
You Are Among Many Survivors of Sexual Abuse & Trauma
If you have experienced sexual trauma, which includes rape, incest, revenge pornography, childhood sexual abuse and other unwanted sexual encounters, you are not alone. Anyone can be the victim of a sexual crime, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age or race. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four women and one in 17 men in the state of Colorado will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault during their lifetime. More than 70 percent of victims know their attackers and over 50 percent experience their trauma before the age of consent.
Sexual trauma occurs when there is any form of unwanted, non-consensual, coerced, threatened, or pressured sexual action—physical or emotional—that violates your desires or wishes. Consent must be explicit, and silence is not consent. It does not matter if you did not say “no,” yell out, fight back or ask for help, and it does not matter if you went along with the act or had an orgasm. When experiencing trauma, your body goes into fight/flight/freeze/faint mode. Because of this, many people who are raped are unable to verbally say “no” or fight off the attacker. Not because they don’t want to, but because their bodies have shut down for survival.
Because victims are often blamed for the assault or know their attacker personally, many survivors internalize their distress. Some never tell anyone else about what happened. However, regardless of your sexual history, what you were wearing, the presence of drugs or alcohol or the experience of an orgasm, sexual assault is never something you ask for or deserve. Sexual abuse counseling offers a safe space for you process pain and carefully identify the effects of child abuse and sexual trauma. With the guidance of an experienced sex therapist, you can rediscover your voice and experience relief.
Sexual Trauma Counseling Can Help You Recover
Counseling for sexual abuse, childhood sexual abuse and sexual trauma can be incredibly effective. Together, we will work to establish safety, trust and resiliency in the therapy environment in order to cultivate openness and opportunities for healing. Throughout our work together, your comfort will always be a main focus and priority. At a pace that feels manageable to you, we will work through your symptoms and toward increased self-compassion, connection and satisfaction.
If you experienced childhood sexual assault, the trauma may have a lasting impact on your brain. Any experience of trauma can lead to the increased activation of your nervous system. So, part of our work together involves resetting your brain and getting it unstuck from trauma mode. To do this, I often use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT Therapy). This regulates the nervous system while working with emotions and thoughts as they arise in the present moment. It also can create new positive self-concepts and emotional regulation.
My approach to therapy is present-focused and tailored to the symptoms, concerns and desires that you’re currently facing. Together, we will create new, healthier ways to address and gain control over these issues. You will learn to listen to internal cues that lead to unwanted thoughts, emotions and actions, and gain tools that allow you to be in charge of creating new behaviors and experiences. The final part of therapy involves integration and meaning-making of the trauma. As you feel comfortable accepting what happened, you’ll have the tools needed to move forward into a future of limitless potential.
I’ve been working with sexual assault survivors since 1994. Erin Carpenter wrote in her book Life, Reinvented, “Sexual trauma is an action. It’s something happens to you, not something that you are.” With the right guidance and support, it’s possible to build your strength and resilience, become more connected with yourself and world and move forward living in accordance to your true values and beliefs. With the right guidance and support from an open and compassionate therapist, it’s possible to experience true intimacy and live a fulfilling, empowered life.
You may still have questions or concerns about sexual trauma therapy…
I’ve been to therapy before, and it made me feel worse.
If you’ve been to therapy before, we will discuss what didn’t work for you in your previous experience so that we don’t repeat it here. Trauma work is a process, and establishing safety is crucial. At a pace that feels comfortable to you, we will create a solid framework of compassion and safety and mindfully move forward so that you have a positive and supportive therapeutic experience. I have a great deal of experience and success helping clients compassionately work through the pain of sexual assault.
I don’t want to talk about this. I’m not even sure how to talk about this.
Throughout our work together, we will never go anywhere you are not ready to go. And if you don’t know how to talk about this – perhaps you don’t clearly remember what happened – that’s okay. Together, we will work through this in a manner and pace that feels comfortable to you. It’s my eventual hope that you will integrate the incident as just one part of the story of your life and feel able to focus on the beautiful and positive moments ahead.
My assault happened so long ago. If I haven’t been able to get over it by now, I doubt I ever will.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The road may be difficult, but having the capacity to develop healthy attachments, make empowered choices from a place of compassionate self-awareness is worth the effort. Sexual trauma counseling is an investment in yourself, your relationships and your future. With the help of an experienced sex therapist, you can move beyond the sexual assault to fully claim the whole story of your life.
Recovery Is Possible
If you’ve experienced sexual assault and live in Boulder, CO, I invite you to start the healing process by scheduling a free 20-minute consultation. I am a LGBTQ affirming therapist, and I provide services to individuals, couples and poly relationships. I’m happy to discuss how sexual assault counseling can help you move forward.