Rape: A Story of Resilience and Healing
In the news lately, you can’t miss hearing about sexual assault, sexual harassment and Harvey Weinstein. Over and over again, we’ve heard the phrase “Me Too”. It is being tweeted and posted on Facebook and other social media platforms. It is indicative of the sender saying “I’ve been sexually assaulted or harassed too”. This phenomenon demonstrates how pervasive and prevalent sexual assault and/or harassment has been in our society. Each time this issue shows up in the news, it can trigger someone who has survived this type of attack. I’d like to tell you about a client with whom I just finished working who has survived being raped. Her’s is a story of trauma, resilience and healing. She has given me permission to share her story with you. Thank you, Anna, for your courage and commitment to both your and other people’s healing.
Last January, a new client walked into my office. She handed me a book she had written and published about her experience, “For Now: Words of a Girl Who Fought Back“. She had been raped just after high school graduation…by one of her best friends! He was arrested, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison. She is now 24 years old and has been dealing with the trauma of the rape for all of these years.
Her Goals for Therapy
Her goals for therapy included:
- Working through the trauma of rape
- Thinking of the rape: decrease or eliminate
- Flashback: decrease or eliminate
- Nightmares: decrease or eliminate
- Unpair memories of hometown tied to the rape
- Feel calm when going to sleep
- Feel comfortable about my sexuality; feel comfortable in my body
- feel okay receiving attention
- Wear whatever clothing I want, when I want
Course of Therapy
Over the 10 months we worked together, we had 16 sessions. During some of them, we talked; during most of them, we did Brainspotting (for more information on Brainspotting, read those pages on my website and/or watch my YouTube video). Brainspotting is a non-verbal technique for accessing and reprocessing trauma in the brain without retraumatizing the person.
After a first session of getting to know each other a bit, our topics included:
- Goal setting
- Feeling safe going to sleep and sleep hygiene
- Diet, relationship with food and self-care
- Relationship with exercise and self-care
- Brainspotted (Bsp) “a time she felt good in her body”
- Bsp “the rape kit”
- Bsp “feeling broken”
- The Energy Pie
- Talked about boundaries
- Developmental stages of trauma
- Bsp situations that have arisen around her sexuality
- Bsp “Ray Bans on her attacker” – her attacker wore these sunglasses; any time she saw a man wearing Ray Bans, it triggered her memories
- Bsp “her 1st 6 months in college” – she had a lot of health issues in those first 6 months
- Just prior to the anniversary of the rape, we did Bsp on “the rape”. The timing just felt right for her.
- Discussed closure with friends who had not been there for her.
- Bsp “Returning home” including the house in which the rape occurred and seeing people she knows.
After processing and, when needed, discussion of the above, we talked about “her new story”. We discussed continuing self-care including how she eats, exercise, checked in on body image, dietary supplements and brushed up on some lingering anxiety and depression. In our last sessions, Anna mentioned that she’s been able to decrease or eliminate some of her medications. In our last session, Anna recapped what she had learned, what her future challenges could be, and her resources. One thing that has been important to Anna from almost the beginning her experience was to help other survivors of rape through her talking about her experience. In our last sessions, she said this chapter of her life felt done.
Anna’s Perspective After Months of Trauma Therapy Using Brainspotting
The following are some of the clients quotes as we progressed through therapy:
The following are Anna’s quotes from our termination session:
We’ve heard the term resilience used in various situations. Resilience is the ability of someone to “bounce back” or “go on” after a devastating occurrence. When clients come into my office, I look for resilience. For people who come into therapy, they’ve made it that far. If they haven’t already, I help them go from victim to survivor. In our work together, I hope to help clients go from surviving to thriving; a state where survivor is no longer part of his/her/their identity.