Integrating the experience and moving on in your life.
You are the only one who will know when you have reached this stage.
In this stage of your recovery you will be able to acknowledge the impact of the assault on your life. You will have learned that the assault was not your fault, accepted that your life is different and that you can never be quite the same person as you were before the assault. In this respect, recovering from a sexual attack is similar to recovering from bereavement or another form of considerable loss.
It may be difficult to image that recovery from the trauma of extreme life experience can hold unexpected benefits. However, other survivors have identified some of the following on their healing journeys:
An awareness of your inner strengths and resources
Confidence that you can survive
Clarity about your own values and beliefs
Prepared to face whatever life brings your way
The courage to make new decisions
Gained new knowledge and new skills
Clarity about what is most important to you
How can family and friends help someone recover from a sexual attack?
From the very beginning, a person needs to be heard and understood and to be believed. You must show them that you believe them absolutely. They will be feeling very insecure and will possibly have to deal with many questions about their credibility. As a close supporter your belief and support will allow the person, in their own time, to begin to come to terms with the assault. If you have any questions, keep them to yourself. Women and men do not lie about rape.
Give back to the person you care about, control over the things they do in their life. During the assault he/she, would have had their free right to choose what they did and with whom ignored. Their attacker would have had absolute control. The person you care about needs to feel that they have personal control back in their life. You can begin to help them achieve this by supporting them to make their decisions. Do not coerce them, or force them to do anything they are uncertain of, or are sure they do not want to do.
Know what the person you care about handled the assault in best way possible at the time. People who are threatened and attacked by others respond in different ways, often instinctively, because they are trying to survive. There can be no exact way to react, as each person’s experience of assault is individual to them. Nobody should be judged in any way how they managed the situation.
Listen to the person you care about; let them talk about their feelings, and the attack – if they want to – but never press the person to do so. Let the person know that you are here for them at any time, but really mean it. Reassure the person that their feelings are normal, and also that things will change as a person gradually adjusts to what has happened. It is possible that someone has other difficulties in their life, which may be exaggerated because of the assault. It may be that as a person manages to get their life back in order they may become stuck at certain times and need your support to move on, helping them feel more secure and more in control. This is where contact with a Counsellor may be helpful if the person has received no therapeutic support since the assault happened.
Support yourself too, as you may also be feeling a range of strong emotions, possibly anger and guilt that you were unable to protect the person you care about and also your own feelings of being hurt by the negative impact of the attack on your life. You may need to talk, whether through counselling, family or friends, but never without the permission of the person who has been attacked, disclose any details or personal information.