Content Warning: This piece contains references to sexual assault, which may be triggering to some.
What does it mean to be a survivor today in the midst of the ‘Me Too’ movement? We are constantly be reminded of the ugliness as we watch as our country praise and forgive our assaulters as they are elected President and sworn in as Supreme Court Justices.
It’s infuriating to know that I will never be in a group without at least one woman who has had a negative sexual experience. Sexual violence rears its ugly head in many ways ranging from harassment to assault, abuse and battery. It’s simply unacceptable that so many people have been forced to normalize being hollered at, groped at a bar or being pressured into a sexual act.
As survivors of sexual violence in any of its foul forms, how do we cope, how do we heal and how do we really return to life with any sense of normalcy? These are heavy-handed questions, especially in the political climate that we’re facing day in and day out. In no means is this meant to be substitute for counseling and professional help if necessary, but from my own experience I’ve found much of the following to be spiritually cleansing after the pain and loss brought from sexual violence.
Survivors of sexual violence experience stages of the healing process that often mirror the five stages of grief and loss. There’s an overwhelming sense of isolation and identity loss that follows being stripped of your sexual consent. This can have both short- and long-term impacts on day to day life in many ways, such as PTSD or new phobias and anxieties, loss of concentration, depression, or the fear of intimacy. What’s important to remember is that healing is a process, one that may continue on for many years or possibly even our entire life.
In my journey, I’ve found that a mix of self-expression and spirituality has been helpful in dealing with the grief and loss from my assault (in addition to professional help and the love and support from friends and family). I’ve compiled a list of healing practices that those who are struggling with Sexual Healing can use as a guide. These are particular to me and my journey, so I urge you to find which of these healing activities work best for you. They can all be easily be tailored to your own manifestation and recovery.
Break out the Paintbrush
Self-expression is really important during your sexual healing. In fact, it doesn’t matter what your self expression is, it just requires that you create something that speaks to you. It can be incredibly hard to put into words how the violence you’ve survived has affected you. Even more so, it can be hard to have a steady grasp on who you are anymore at all. Creating art, writing poetry, gardening, whatever it may be that you do, see it as a bridge. It’s a gateway to defining the new you, to sharing the most intimate parts of pain you know without having to tell someone in concrete terms. Let the work speak for itself, let it be the receptacle of your grief.
Use a Pen instead of a Pencil
When you do write, use a pen. I mean this mostly metaphorical, even though it is a small step. Start seeing the eraser as something unimportant, trust in yourself that what we see as mistakes are really just part of our journey to getting better. This is your first step towards re-finding your sense of self-assurance. It can be very difficult after having your life shaken up to believe in yourselves and feel secure. To start make decisions for yourself with more confidence and trust in your intuition, start listening to your true needs and desires. Do not allow other people to make choices for you during this time because the most important piece in this part of your journey is that you are in control! It is perfectly OK to say no and to be a little selfish during this period of your life. Getting things back on track means taking full reins and pushing aside the fear.
Study your Sacral Chakra
Your Sacral Chakra is your second chakra located where your reproductive organs live, right above the Root Chakra and below the Solar Plexus Chakra. It glows a bright fiery orange and it’s the hotspot for all things sexual and creative. This is where your passion, emotions and desires burn. Think orange everything; carnelian and clementines and citrus oils. All of the bulk of the spiritual healing that you should focus on will be in this area.
Mantra Based Meditation
I recommend Meditation to binaural beats- preferably one at 417 Hz which usually correlates to traumatic healing (there are several great ones on Youtube- check out MagneticMinds). When meditating, it helps to place an orange crystal, or one associated with trauma healing, on your sacral chakra and use a mantra. Our mind can tend to get crazy when meditating, especially when we know we are trying to heal from a very traumatic experience. I would recommend using ‘I Feel’ at the beginning, as it is associated with the sacral chakra. I would create a phrase that is especially meaningful for you. But if you are having a tough time coming up with one I would recommend, ‘I Feel Powerful, in Control, and Safe’.
Find small ways to surrender yourself again. This can be extremely scary. Our bodies become a very unsafe terrain to even ourselves. I recommend starting with masturbation. You don’t need any crazy sex toy. In fact, do everything to make sure that your environment is safe. Lock your doors and windows if necessary, light some candles, get yourself comfortable. Start by just using your fingers. This process is not about an orgasm, but instead about beginning to allow your body to trust touch again, even your own. Over time, you’ll begin to relax more and be able to let go into the moment more. Being able to see our bodies as sexual, in a healthy way, is the biggest form of surrender after sexual violence.
Daily Acts of Self Care
Some days it is going to feel impossible to get out of bed and even get showered and dressed. Realize that this is ok every now and again and forgive yourself. Treating yourself with absolute tenderness needs to become your golden rule. Self-care is something that needs to become part of your daily regimen though what it looks like can change every day if you so please. When I say self-care, this can look much different on the good days than on the bad days. On the good days it could be going to that yoga class you love, goofing off an reading up on astrology or stopping by at your favorite coffee shop on the way home from work. On the bad days, this could look like taking a little extra time in the shower to relax or lighting some candles. Self-care is really about self-love. It’s a small reminder to take 10 to 20 minutes out of every day to do something that you genuinely enjoy and feel passion for.
Hush the Nightmares
Nightmares can occur as a result of PTSD. While we are sleeping, our mind tends to run rampant, and often we experience the same sensations of fight or flight in our dreams. A helpful exercise is to repeat to yourself every night before bed, ‘I am the controller of my dreams.’ Also, it can be helpful to attribute a certain color to your dreams. For me, when I see yellow in my dream, I know that I am dreaming and I can allow myself to wake up or to change my dream. I know it sounds crazy, but in the same way your body just naturally wakes you up before your alarm clock, your subconscious mind can hold onto what you tell it to remember while it’s sleeping. Tell yourself out loud, ‘When I see yellow, I will know that I’m dreaming and that I can wake up.’
Crystals that I recommend for trauma healing are:
Carnelian which is a Sacral Chakra stone and also really great for combating the resentment and anger that comes with healing. Meditate with carnelian on your Sacral Chakra.
Garnet helps with guilt and shame which are issues correlated with our Root Chakra. It also helps to uproot past pain and once again find confidence and power in yourself. Meditate with this on your Root Chakra which is located at the base of your spine.
Citrine helps with promoting feelings of self-worth that are associated with our Solar Plexus Chakra. Meditate with this on your Solar Plexus Chakra which is located at your belly button.
Rhodochrosite is wonderful for both releasing repressed emotions and forgiveness.
Tree Agate for the shock that often accompanies trauma, it can help bring you back to balance.
Smoky quartz is great for letting go of grief and transforming negative emotions. It takes negative energy and turns it into a ball of light. Pair with apache tears for an enhanced effect of acceptance and surrender.
Black Tourmaline absorbs negative energy. I recommend sleeping with it underneath your pillow at night to help with nightmares. Remember to cleanse it after every use by running it under water, leaving in moonlight, or running through incense smoke.
Balance Your Yin and Yang
After a traumatizing experience, especially one linked to our sexuality, we can find resentment towards our feminine energies. This is the energy that is wrongly stereotyped as weak, defenseless and soft. Many survivors, especially women, take on more masculine approach as a defense mechanism and begin to see their femininity as something that was unable to protect them or was at fault for the assault. For a long time, I struggled with what it meant to be feminine in my new body and the fear of being perceived as such by others. Balancing your yin (female) and yang (male) energies or even just having an awareness of the imbalance can be a start. Start by finding ways to appreciate the softer, more tender parts of yourself, the loving and emotional sides. Feminine does not mean small and it does not mean reserved. Redefine what it means to you and redefine the stereotypes. Allow yourself to cry, allow yourself to trust people in small ways again, allow yourself to share with others.
Focus on Health
It is very easy to lose sight of health after trauma. Many people fall into unhealthy or risky behaviors, without even really being self aware of it. I recommend staying away from alcohol and drugs during healing. Anything we put in our bodies that has the ability to change our behaviors and moods will be likely to cause flashbacks or harmful thoughts and actions. This doesn’t mean we can’t go out and have fun with our friends, it just means we should use caution because our minds are in a fragile place after an assault. In addition to this, exercising and eating healthy are really important. Studies have shown that 30% of people with eating disorders have suffered trauma at some point in their lives. Violence changes the way we perceive our bodies and it’s really important that we make sure that we are eating balanced meals, three times a day and getting out and moving. If your hunger isn’t there or if it’s rampant, try having snacks of dried/fresh fruit and nuts. This will keep your energy levels up. Try a yoga class, it is not only great exercise, there is a spiritual and meditative value to it.
Find Your Coven
Find people you can confide in. This could be friends, family, a counselor or even an online group. There are many groups on Facebook that open their arms to survivors of sexual violence. They’re safe havens where people can post about their stories and connect with others who are going through what they are. Remember that there are always resources out there:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
Crisis Text Line
CONNECT to 741741