Feature by Nikita Fernandes
In his book titled "The Body Keeps the Score," trauma expert Bessel Van Der Kolk writes that our nervous system, and by extension our bodies, are changed after we experience trauma. He speaks to an internal shift that happens within an individual after experiencing a trauma such as sexual trauma. Sexual trauma is exposure to unwanted sexual behavior that leaves the individual feeling violated. RAINN says that every 68 seconds, someone in America is assaulted. Sexual trauma symptoms include feeling depressed, lonely, disconnected from their bodies and so on. It also has a large impact on peoples sexual lives after the trauma.
Some people in society are at a higher risk for trauma such as people that are gender non-conforming. People that identify as trans or non-binary can often be fetishized and made to feel unsafe at the same time. Other individuals, such as people socialized as men, have a harder time acknowledging and processing trauma due to the stigma of toxic masculinity. People socialized as men might be more hesitant to speak about trauma for fear of not being believed as well. It is important to acknowledge the intersecting identities that people hold while experiencing trauma. Thus, the issue of sexual violence is a systemic one and while we cannot fully control what happens to us, we can empower ourselves with coping tools. If someone is working through sexual trauma, it can be helpful to:
In her brilliant book titled "Healing Sex," author Staci Haines writes that we have to feel our emotions to heal our emotions. While coping with emotions during trauma can be immensely painful, we have to acknowledge the range of emotions that we hold feel our way out of the pain. Feeling and practicing emotions can help survivors of violence express themselves and move towards a place of healing. Thus, setting motivations, paying attention to safety, leaning on community, working with professionals and giving ourselves permission to be human are all powerful tools for empowerment.