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  • Writer's picturePaige Wilcken

Sexual Assault: Prevention and Recovery

TW: Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault


According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), someone is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds in the U.S. This means that every minute someone has been mistreated in one of the most despicable ways.


With so many who have been affected by some sort of sexual mistreatment, it is vital more than ever to know how to prevent it and how victims can overcome the trauma they have experienced.



Prevention


In 8 out of 10 cases, sexual assault perpetrators know the victim. The majority of these are the significant other of the victim. Family members including extended family fall next in line as likely to be sexual assault perpetrators.


The best way to prevent sexual assault in these situations is through vigilance in watching their behavior for red flags.


Some red flags include possessiveness, trying to get you alone a lot, and "grooming".


Possessive behavior typically occurs in established relationships. It can look like a lack of trust as well as jealousy.


Grooming behavior is typically a tactic used by perpetrators on victims of their choosing. They first start by gaining access to the victim and getting them alone. Then they work to gain the victim and/or victim's family trust. Once they have trust secured then they can use that trust to begin manipulating the victim in any way they choose as well as convincing the victim to keep their relationship a secret.


For college students, it is so important to know how to keep yourself safe both on campus and in social settings.


While on campus you should:

  • Know the campus resources

  • Stay alert - only have one earbud so you can hear around you

  • Don't post your location on social media

  • Don't immediately trust others, have them earn your trust

  • Have a plan for various emergencies and scenarios

  • Be secure by locking doors and windows.

In social settings, you should do the same as above by having a plan and staying with people you trust. Some other things you need to be aware of are the importance of protecting your drink and knowing your limits. It is also okay to lie if you need to get you or your friends out of a potentially dangerous situation. Basically, stay close to your trusted friends and be sure to look out for each other.


If you find yourself in a setting where someone is pressuring you at all then there are also ways to go about getting out of this type of situation. First, remind yourself that this is not your fault and that you did nothing wrong. Next, you need to trust your gut and if it makes you uncomfortable then get out of there as fast as possible. You can either make up a lie if you need to or you can use a code word that you have established with your friends so they can help you exit the situation.



Trauma Recovery


Recovering from a traumatic event can be difficult but can be easier when you know how to navigate the recovery process. Here are some guidelines to follow for those who have been victims of sexual assault:


  • Reach out and open up about what happened

Talking to someone you trust is a good first step in accepting what happened and healing from the trauma you experienced. If you would rather talk to people you don't know you can consider joining a support group where you can process what occurred and move forward in the healing process.


  • Find coping mechanisms to handle the feelings that come

Guilt and shame are common feelings after experiencing sexual assault. Whatever happened, you are not responsible for what happened, the only one responsible is the perpetrator. Processing the feelings you experience is vital and requires reminding yourself of the truths mentioned previously, that you are not at fault.


  • Be aware that flashbacks and memories are inevitable

Especially in the weeks and months to follow the incident, flashbacks and nightmares are common. That doesn't make it any less difficult to get through though. Be aware that these types of things are likely to happen and that you will need to find ways to immediately self-soothe yourself using breathing or other similar techniques.


  • Reconnect to your body and feelings

Often times after a traumatic event people try to disconnect from the trauma that occurred. In so doing, they disconnect from all feelings and essentially go numb. However, in order to fully recover from the effects of sexual assault, it is important to reconnect to your body and to your feelings.


Some ways you can do this are through rhythmic movement, meditation, yoga, or massage. It is all about tapping into your emotions so you can process them and work toward moving forward once again.


  • Nurture yourself

Trauma recovery is a process, so take the time you need to take care of yourself. Some ways to do so are by resting, not consuming too much media, taking care of yourself physically, and avoiding alcohol and drugs.



Resources - Local and National


The main national resource for sexual assault is RAINN. They provide resources, information, and a hotline you can call. All of their content is listed on their website.


If you are local to Rexburg Idaho, or surrounding areas, Idaho Falls has a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center. If you need help in any way you can contact them and they have the tools to help you.


Also, keep in mind that BYU-Idaho has campus resources. This includes a Sexual Assault Support counselor who you can meet with at no cost if a student at BYU-Idaho. They also include some information on sexual assault on their website as well.


Please do not be afraid to reach out. There are many wonderful resources out there for those of you who have experienced such a traumatic experience in your life. Do not give up on trying to find that happiness once again in your life.


References


Assault Victim Resources. Brigham Young University - Idaho. (n.d.). https://www.byui.edu/counseling-center/additional-information/sexual-assault/assault-victim-resources.


Pollack, D., & MacIver, A. (2015). Understanding sexual abuse in child abuse cases. American Bar Association. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_interest/child_law/resources/child_law_practiceonline/child_law_practice/vol-34/november-2015/understanding-sexual-grooming-in-child-abuse-cases/.


Safety and Prevention. RAINN. (n.d.). https://rainn.org/safety-prevention.


Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2021). Recovering from rape and sexual trauma. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/recovering-from-rape-and-sexual-trauma.htm.

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