Moving forward after a Sexual Assault


The effects of sexual assault on victims and their loved ones can be felt psychologically, emotionally and physically. They can be very brief or long-term in duration; they may even last a lifetime. It is important to remember that there is no one “normal” reaction to sexual assault. Every individual’s response will be different depending on the situation. Healing from rape or sexual assault takes time.

Here are some things to consider for taking care of yourself as you recover from a rape or sexual assault:

  • Physical Self-Care – We all function better when our bodies are healthy. Therefore, taking care of your physical needs is important in the aftermath of a stressful situation like sexual assault. We tend to underestimate the value of things like eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and getting a good night’s sleep.

  • Stay busy – Many survivors have full time jobs, go to school, volunteer and have families. It is helpful to try to get back to your regular routines as soon as possible. Finding time to do activities that you enjoy is also an important aspect of self-care.

  • Emotional Self-Care – Understanding the importance of your emotional well-being is the start of living a healthy lifestyle. You must be willing to feel and express emotions about what you’ve gone through in the past and what you will go through in the future. Whether it is with one other person, a group of people, or on your own, knowing, accepting, and saying how you feel are steps in the right direction.

  • Counseling – A Safe Place provides free and confidential supportive counseling for you and your loved ones to help process what happened. We can also make referrals for other support services.

  • Journal or Diary – Some survivors find that recording their thoughts and feelings in a journal or diary helps them manage their emotions after an assault. Meditation or relaxation exercises help many survivors as well.

  • Surround yourself with positive people – It’s important to make sure that the people in your life are supportive. Nurture relationships with people that make you feel good about yourself!

  • Look out for yourself – Be wary of friends or family who leave you feeling tired or depressed when you see them, never have time to listen to you, or dismiss or belittle your experience as a survivor. Focus on spending time with those you care about and who care about what is best for you.

  • It is never too late to call for help – Even if the attack happened years ago, it’s never too late to get help. Many survivors do not realize they need help until months or years later. Call us to speak with someone about your attack.




When learning to survive a traumatic experience, taking care of yourself is very important. Preventing undue stress and emotional over-load must be your priority. Here is a list of things that might be helpful for you:


  • Get support from friends and family – try to identify people you trust to validate your feelings and affirm your strengths, and avoid those who you think will deter your healing process.

  • Talk about the assault and express feelings – choose when, where, and with whom to talk about the assault, and set limits by only disclosing information that feels safe for you to reveal.

  • Use stress reduction techniques – hard exercise like jogging, aerobics, walking; relaxation techniques like yoga, massage, music, hot baths; prayer and/or meditation.

  • Maintain a balanced diet and sleep cycle as much as possible and avoid overusing stimulants like caffeine, sugar, and nicotine.

  • Discover your playful and creative “self”. Playing and creativity are important for healing from hurt. Find time for noncompetitive play – start or resume a creative activity like piano, painting, gardening, handicrafts, etc.

  • Take “time outs.” Give yourself permission to take quiet moments to reflect, relax and rejuvenate – especially during times you feel stressed or unsafe.

  • Try reading. Reading can be a relaxing, healing activity. Try to find short periods of uninterrupted leisure reading time.

  • Consider writing or keeping a journal as a way of expressing thoughts and feelings.

  • Release some of the hurt and anger in a healthy way: Write a letter to your attacker about how you feel about what happened to you. Be as specific as you can. You can choose to send the letter or not. You also can draw pictures about the anger you feel towards your attacker as a way of releasing the emotional pain.

  • Hug those you love. Hugging releases the body’s natural pain-killers.

  • Remember you are safe, even if you don’t feel it. The sexual assault is over. It may take longer than you think, but you will feel better.


         Source: guide#pledge1




Physical Self-Care

Maintain good medical care.   It's easy to put off going to the doctor or clinic, but be sure to make and keep those appointments. If you don't, small health problems that might have been simple to take care of can become a lot more complicated.

Get plenty of sleep.   Most people require seven to 10 hours of sleep per night. The key thing is to ensure a peaceful environment that will maximize your ability to get as much rest as your body needs. Sleep heals!

Eat right.   Food provides both nourishment and comfort. It's not always possible to organize your life to ensure three good meals every day, but you should at least try to eat a healthy, balanced diet that delivers solid nutritional value. As long as you don't overdo them, occasional treat foods and goodies are also can also give you a psychological mini-boost.

Stay active.    This is one of the most overlooked areas of self-care. You should try to achieve 30 minutes of exercise at least five times per week. If you enjoy activities like cycling, jogging, golf or team sports, try your best to keep them a part of your lifestyle. Even a quick lunchtime walk in the sunshine will get your blood pumping, muscles moving and help reduce negative feelings, stress and depression.


Emotional Self-Care

Meditation soothes your spirit. Many people find value in using relaxation techniques to restore and maintain their emotional health. This example is a good place to start:



  • Sit or stand comfortably with your back straight and feet flat on the floor.

  • Place one hand on your belly button and breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of four, letting your tummy expand as you inhale. Concentrate on relaxing your tummy muscles as you inhale.

  • Hold your breath for four seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth for another count of four. Try to keep the rest of your body relaxed; your shoulders should not rise and fall as you breathe.

  • Keep counting and repeating this deep inhale-hold-deep exhale cycle, and you should begin to feel a calming effect.



Keep a diary.   Some people find that recording their thoughts and feelings in a journal or diary helps them to manage their emotions.

Counselling.   Joining a support group or talking with a professional counsellor experienced in supporting people who have been sexually assaulted may be helpful to your healing process.

Nurture your relationships.   Your emotional self-care can also involve the people in your life who make you feel good about yourself. Make it a priority to spend quality time with these friends and family members. You may also feel comfortable connecting with a support group for survivors of sexual assault or abuse; other member can relate to your situation.

Set some boundaries.   Be careful to avoid people who are unable (or unwilling) to listen to you, who want to dismiss or analyze your experience or who leave you feeling depressed. Cutting negative family members out of your life may not be an option, but you can control the amount of time you spend around them (avoid open-ended time commitments, for example) or see them only as part of a group. If there are days when you just don't feel like communicating with the world, screen your calls or turn off your phone; there's no rule requiring you to answer every ringtone.

Get involved.   Many survivors have full, busy lives -- families, jobs, school. Finding time to enjoy leisure activities can be a big challenge, but this is a vital part of your self-care. Get involved with other people in a hobby, sport or volunteer organization that you really love. Being part of a group-oriented activity or project can be motivating. When you have plans for doing "fun" things, be sure to mark them on your calendar and treat them as important!




Intimate Self-Care


Moving towards healthy sexual attitudes and reactions

The passing of time and positive sexual experiences by yourself or with a partner will naturally move you towards more healthy sexual attitudes. You can also actively begin the process of shifting your ideas that promote the sexual abuse mind-set to healthy sexual attitudes by trying some of the following:

  • Avoid exposure to people and things that reinforce the sexual abuse mindset. Avoid any media (TV programs, books, magazines, websites, etc.) that portray sex as sexual abuse. This includes avoiding pornography. Pornography consistently depicts sexually aggressive and abusive situations as pleasurable and consensual. As an alternative to pornography there are erotic materials, often named erotica, where the sexual situations shown display sex with consent, equality, and respect.

  • Use positive and accurate language when referring to sex. When referring to body parts use the proper names, not slang terms that can be negative or degrading. Ensure that your language about sex reflects that sex is something positive and healthy, and that it is something that you can make choices about. Do not use words that reinforce the idea that sex is sexual abuse, such as "banging" or "nailing."

  • Discover more about your current sexual attitudes and how you would like them to change. Spend time considering how you would feel about sex if you had never been sexually assaulted or abused. Consider how you want to think and feel about sex in the future.

  • Discuss ideas about healthy sexuality and sex with others such as with your friends, partner, therapist, or support group members.

  • Educate yourself about healthy sex. Read books, take workshops, or talk with a counselor.




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