‘Me Too’: Women With Sexual Trauma Can Benefit From Therapeutic Support
By Ginger Poag, MSW, LCSW, Trauma Therapist at The Ranch
The “Me Too” movement is taking the world by storm. As more men are accused of sexual misconduct, more women are finding the confidence to voice their truth—a truth that requires sharing very personal stories of a difficult time in their lives.
It’s important to recognize that women who have been sexually victimized in some way have suffered a trauma. Even with other women banding together, and even with the freedom to speak their truth and tell their stories, the need for solid emotional support should not be overlooked.
Therapy can be an effective tool for people with childhood sexual trauma and/or adult trauma due to exposure to sexual misconduct or harassment. A therapist can help them navigate through the feelings triggered by old memories, as well as the new memories that might come up.
The extraordinary revelations of sexual abuse seen so far may be the tip of the iceberg. Some people may be triggered by existing memories and others will be triggered by forgotten memories. Sharing with other people may be an important part of the journey, but talking with a professional is crucially important.
As the “Me Too” movement expands, here is why therapeutic support is so important:
Ongoing emotional support
With the conversation about sexual misconduct getting bigger every day, it is so important to get professional help and work with somebody who can help you dissect it all. There are many different feelings and emotions involved in an incident of sexual harassment or misconduct, which can create a sense of confusion as well as lead to depression, anxiety and substance use.
Treatment when dealing with childhood abuse
Not everyone remembers what happened to them as a small child. Many people have buried their past trauma. So if they experienced sexual abuse or sexual harassment in the past, and they begin hearing of sexual misconduct on the news, it can re-trigger old trauma they did not even know was there. It begins to seep out because they are seeing things in the news or on social media.
Help with the general sense of despair
When someone is not aware of past trauma, they may walk around with a general sense of despair. As memories surface, they may not really understand what to do with that information now that they are adults and they begin to remember what happened. So, it helps to have a professional who works with trauma to help them figure out how to respond to the new memories and any new feelings and thoughts that are coming up.
How to Administer Self-Care
1. Share your story with the right people
Many women are writing articles, going on television and taking to social media to share their tales. Being a contributing voice among many has formed a sisterhood of sorts, uniting women around the world who have experienced similar situations. But be mindful about where you share the personal details of your life. Even though everybody’s going out on social media, not everybody has people’s best interest at heart. Sharing in groups of like-minded women and in places where your story will be respected and heard are the best routes.
2. Practice mindfulness with substance use.
Severely limit your drinking during this time when emotions are all over the place and you’re feeling vulnerable. It’s always a risky time for someone to be drinking and possibly developing a bad habit that can eventually turn into a substance use disorder.
3. Choose people around you carefully.
If you are aware of your own trauma, or just beginning to process it, be careful with whom you share it. Many people have had the experience where the victim is blamed or asked, “Why didn’t you do this or that, or why didn’t you say this sooner?” There will be many questions about your personal experience that you should not have to answer. You also should not be second-guessed about what you’re saying. So be careful with whom you surround yourself and whom you’re disclosing information to.
4. Do good things for yourself on a consistent basis.
- Make sure you get good rest
- Get physical exercise, whether it’s yoga or walking
- Have some downtime to relax
- Watch what you eat, especially if pushing down emotions with food
- Try meditating or reflecting-thinking for peace of mind
- Listen to empowering music
- Take a break from the news and social media
- Be extra gentle with yourself
Bringing Trauma Into the Light Is Good
The “Me Too” campaign is a positive thing for the people who have been victimized or abused. It’s giving them a voice and a platform to speak about their experiences. It’s letting them know that they’re not alone. Overall, it is always positive to bring trauma out of the darkness and into the light. But people who have experienced childhood abuse and sexual trauma of any kind will benefit from having support in place to help them sort through any confusion as well as manage the emotions that may be triggered.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.