What was helpful for you about counseling for sexual assault?
January 18, 2013 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Have you gone to therapy or counseling after a rape? What outcome were you looking for? Did it help?

I asked this question 2 years ago. I went ahead and went to a meeting with a therapist at school, was supposed to be registered for some support group, and never got contacted again. And that was sort of the last time I touched any of that stuff mentally.

I just found out that my rapist has moved to the United States to live with a woman who I tangentially know. I also just watched the painfully true to life rape story line on Friday Night Lights. It's started freaking me out again and I'm back to nightmares. Although I have a very supportive boyfriend, I feel incredibly melodramatic telling him that I'm upset about this when there's nothing concrete I can figure out to do about the situation. I've cried and he's given me long and wonderful hugs, but I can only do that so many times before it starts to become foolish.

I feel like this is supposed to be what therapy is there for, but I don't really know what I would want out of it, other than to stop being bothered by having been raped. And when I tried last time, the therapist didn't seem particularly invested, and then they never followed up and I never followed up because it had been such a big hurdle to do the damn thing and it wasn't particularly helpful.

Have you gone to therapy or counseling post-sexual assault and found it helpful? What did you go into it looking for? What did you get out of it? I appreciate your help. If you have any specific resources, I'm in the Columbus OH area and other things can be sent to secretmefite@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I appreciated having a safe place to talk, and someone to talk with whom I wasn't remotely "burdening" by talking about it. That alone was huge.

The Psychology Today therapists' directory can be a useful resource in finding a therapist with specific experience in working with people who have experienced rape. Or a local advocacy group may have a list of people with experience in that work.

My best to you, and my sympathies.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:09 PM on January 18, 2013

I was raped in 1978 and at the time didn't do any counseling or therapy specific to the issue. I'm in my fifties now, and have talked with therapists about it off and on over the years. I don't think you ever go back to feeling completely safe again...I know I haven't. I think one of the things I have received from therapy on this issue is safe space to rage. I will always have rage towards the two men who did this to me, but by allowing myself to feel it and express it, it seemed to consume much less of my own psychic energy.
posted by furtheryet at 6:38 PM on January 18, 2013

For me, the experience of the assault was surreal and being able to talk about it without any boundaries helped make it more real - in that it was an experience I could overcome rather than one that was happiness-ending, or something. I mean, the assault is still part of my history, but my life did not end that night. Now, I feel more able to talk about rape and my own experiences with pretty much anyone, with the hopes that it might help someone.

I think it also helped in getting over the shame I felt. Although I *knew* there was no reason for me to be ashamed, I still felt it and that was bizarre. Without realizing it, the practice of "we don't talk about rape" had crept into my own mind. Breaking the taboo made me feel like I was strong again. This shit is real people, and damnit we're gonna talk about it.
posted by youngergirl44 at 7:34 PM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

It took me about a year to admit it was rape, and a few months after that to admit I couldn't deal with it on my own. I had counselling at that point, which helped me stop self-injuring (one relapse in the ten years or so since then) but this last round of therapy has been most helpful as it dealt with mindfulness. I've found mindfulness to be the most helpful for dealing with triggers and things like that. Ten years later I still have bad days (the past few days have been awful actually - the season is almost like an environmental trigger I just cannot get away from and I've had a bunch of other stressors too).

The therapist I went to see was primarily dealing with my anxiety, rather than the rape itself. I can't fix that bit, all I can do is work on the things that are making my life difficult now. The anxiety about talking about it, the triggers, all of those things can be addressed with the right tools and methods. I don't know that I'll ever get to a point where I can talk about it, or hear about rape, without being bothered. I can just work out how to deal with being bothered in the most appropriate and nurturing way.

Best of luck.

Also, talking about it with someone who doesn't have a vested emotional interest was incredibly valuable. Your therapist wants to help you, certainly, but they aren't your boyfriend, or a friend, who is having their own emotional fallout from it.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:06 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wasn't raped, but when I was 5 I was sexually assaulted by my cousin and what has helped me the most about therapy, which I've started recently, is remembering that I'm not defined by that abuse. The rest of my life has nothing to do with that.

Remember that you are so much more than a victim of an awful crime.

Therapy has helped me to remember to live my own life, and that there's a world outside of those who abused me. Remember that you have the rest of your life ahead of you, which is something that your attacker can never take from you- your present and future.

Therapy has also provided a safe place for me to feel the comfort of knowing that someone else believes me and acknowledges that what happened was abuse. My dad never acknowledged that and is still in touch with my attacker. Therapy helps me to remember that I don't need to wait for my dad or anyone else's validation or approval that what happened was wrong. I am in the process of cutting ties with my family, which I also feel will help my mental health, because my family is abusive, and it feels freeing to know that it will all be in the past very soon.

I'm so sorry this happened to you. Remember that you are strong enough to move past it. You can do this. Be sure not to be in touch with the person your rapist has moved with. Good luck with everything and take care.
posted by new_horizons_new_life at 8:08 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Have you gone to therapy or counseling post-sexual assault and found it helpful?"
Yes - it took me several tries to find the right fit - and emphatically yes, once I did.

"What did you go into it looking for?"

Guidance, originally. I had no idea what to do anymore. Functionality was declining. I was losing myself. The world was becoming scarier and scarier to me, narrowing impossibly. I needed that to stop. I needed to have someone help me get out of my head and back into life. I needed coping skills for the immediate issues and stretching into long-term strategies.

"What did you get out of it?"

Thankfully, I got what I was looking for after a few false starts. I got the guidance, coping skills, outside perspective, and strategies I needed. I also got comfort, reassurance, and permission to fully acknowledge what happened and why those experiences had such profound impact on my existence. I had a mix of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, more traditional talk therapy, and a small amount of group therapy (not focused on what happened, but on how to move forward). Honestly, having someone to talk to who would only respond in the most productive or encouraging way possible was such a balm, everything else was like some crazy bonus.

It is my goal to have EMDR sometime soon and get a new therapist (I didn't have insurance for a couple of years), because I want to put more of this to rest and integrate more fully.

You might want to contact RAINN to see what specifics they can offer, or if you just need some support while you get to the next steps. They are an awesome resource.

I admire your strength. I'm glad you're taking care of yourself. I'm sorry he has re-entered your orbit even marginally. I hope you find the help you need to be whole, healthy, and safe. You're a survivor and I'm so glad you did.
posted by batmonkey at 10:27 PM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

There is a lot of social pressure these days to bare your naked soul when you are assaulted. Personally, I do not find it beneficial to revisit these old wounds. Perhaps you are the type of person for whom this kind of disclosure and exploration are beneficial, but that is not necessarily true of everyone.
posted by kamikazegopher at 10:36 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went to therapy when I finally met an amazing man and my mental health problems were getting in the way of us having a good relationship. It has been the best thing I have ever done. It literally changed my life and I am forever grateful to my therapist for being a wonderful human and giving me my life back.

That said, not all therapists are created equal. The one who was amazing was the third person I went to see. She focused on mindfulness-based somatic therapy, which worked wonders for me. I know a lot of people love CBT, but it didn't really do it for me, so I would recommend doing a bit of research into different types of therapy to see which sounds best before you seek someone out.

When I met her, I was looking for someone I could really relate to and look up to. Body-based therapy really resonated with me, so I was looking for someone who would be able to address trauma on that level rather than just talk about it all the time.

I hope you find what you need.
posted by ohisee at 2:22 AM on January 19, 2013

Trauma needs to be processed. Because some memories are uncomfortable (or worse) there is a tendency to try to ignore them. However, these painful experiences fester inside, and invariably come to the surface to demand our attention. It's different for every individual. Some may have bad dreams, others will have behavioral symptoms. But the bottom line is, stuffing these hard memories away is not an effective solution.
I urge you to find someone to work with. Some therapies are more effective than others. I agree that you need to shop around until you find the right person. But don't give up, find someone to work with, don't go it alone.
posted by elf27 at 2:55 PM on January 19, 2013

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