Seeking counselling after sexual violence
Working with an experienced counsellor after sexual violence is an important step in accepting the event and being able to move on with your life. A counsellor who has specific training in the impact of sexual abuse, dissociative identity disorder and rape crisis work, is in a really good position to understand your experience and support you to move on with your life. Is the counsellor a dissociation-friendly therapist?
Building a relationship with trust
Finding a counsellor you can trust is key to enabling you to share your experiences. By learning to trust a counsellor, those skills learnt can be transferred to the relationships with people in your life. Look for someone who is non-judgemental, is reliable, commits to the appointment they have made with you. Look for testimonials from previous clients as evidence of their practice, often counsellors recommended have a good reputation.
Learning skills to help you cope
The impact of sexual violence can leave people with flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, dissociation, depression, eating disorders, low self-confidence, low self-worth, hyper-vigilance, body conditions among other symptoms. A skilled counsellor can offer techniques you can try to alleviate these symptoms. For example, grounding techniques (see my article on grounding, mindfulness and being present).
Creating a safe place
Finding a place where you feel safe is essential for you to feel calm and with the help of your counsellor, this feeling can be recreated in your own home. The room doesn't have to be the most luxurious but knowing no one else will enter, the room is private, comfortable and safe creates security.
Working within your window of tolerance
When you are talking about your experiences, the counsellor will need to help you keep within your window of tolerance to avoid you becoming re-traumatised. Using specific techniques, the counsellor can help you remain in a space where you can talk without retraumatising yourself. Ask the counsellor if they are aware of this.
Sharing your story
You do not have to go into details if you don't want to, it is your choice what you share. If you feel ready to share your experience, having a non-judgemental response will allow you to feel accepted and your story can be validated by a person who is objective. Many people feel shame after being sexually assaulted and by sharing their feelings a sense of relief can be gained. They realise they will not be rejected because of what has happened.
Remember, it is your choice if you decide to make a formal complaint to the police. You should not feel pressured into reporting the incident. If you do decide to report it, your experienced counsellor can help you understand the process and your rights within it.
Using websites like Counselling Directory, where counsellors have to be qualified and members of a professional body can enable you to get the help you need.
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Nicola Griffiths
My background is with people who have experienced trauma, childhood abuse, domestic violence, depression and anxiety. I have an interest in dissociative identity disorder. I was a children and families social worker and I worked on the leaving care team. Dip in therapeutic counselling, BA Hons in applied social studies, Dip in social work, NNEB.