Recovering from Rape and Abuse

By OBOS Violence & Abuse Contributors | October 15, 2011

Recovery is a gradual process. Reflecting on the following points can help us move through the healing process:

The violence was not your fault. Myths about violence against women get expressed in destructive ways: “It must have been her behavior, she must have provoked him somehow, it must have been what she was wearing, where she was . . .” These things have nothing to do with responsibility for the assault. You did not ask to be hurt and violated, and you did not deserve it.

You made the best choices you could. Whatever decisions you made before, during, and after the assault were limited by the situation.

There is no right way to feel or heal. Your reactions and healing process are connected to who you are as an individual. Culture, economic background, and prior traumatic experiences can influence the healing process in both positive and negative ways. We all take different paths to healing, and we must respect the choices each survivor makes.

Healing takes time, and there may be setbacks. Even when you have healed significantly, an event such as learning about a similar victimization or being in the environment where the violence occurred can temporarily trigger trauma symptoms. This does not mean you have lost all the healing that has occurred. Some of us experience real doubt about whether we will ever fully feel comfortable again in our own bodies:

I don’t know for sure if the feeling of guilt and disgust will all totally vanish. There are times when I can’t stand myself, when anxiety takes over, but these feelings have been lessening as the years have passed.

You deserve support. Connecting with people who believe you and who can provide support and comfort can help you heal.

Rape crisis centers and domestic violence organizations are available and often will help without regard to immigration status. A family member, friend, clergy member, or counselor may also be able to help, particularly if she or he has a real understanding of the dynamics of violence. For many, connecting with survivors online is a huge help. You may decide to try other kinds of healing based on art, music, writing, physical activity, or meditation.