Harm from sexual assault can often last for years. One example is the experience of triggers resulting from sexual assault. Part of learning how to handle these triggers is understanding what they are and being aware when they are occurring.
Triggers often occur as a result of a traumatic experience. According to helpguide.org, “If you are aware of what triggers may cause an upsetting reaction, you’ll be in a better position to understand what’s happening and take steps to calm down.”
Surviviors of sexual assault might experience different types of triggers. Some can be flashbacks, nightmares or upsetting thoughts. They might come from a memory, smell, sound, location, etc.
When we are experiencing a trigger there are often signs within our body due to stimuli to our central nervous system. Some examples might include elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, trouble concentrating, heightened (or lowered) awareness, heightened levels of anxiety and fear, feeling disoriented, etc. Being aware when our body is experiencing these symptoms and taking steps to help control them is important to help manage triggers.
It is important to note that the steps needed to help with sexual assault triggers are different for each individual. Some steps might include self-soothing, techniques like box breathing, learning methods from a professional, or even exposure therapy. If you are currently dealing with triggers associated with sexual assault please speak to someone about it.
Sexual assault is often associated with feelings of guilt and shame. Remember that you are not to blame. If you or a loved one is currently dealing with issues related to sexual assault we encourage you to speak to someone you trust. Also encourage you to contact a mental health professional.
We want to make sure that you are safe. Here are some additional resources related to sexual assault:
National Sexual Assault Hotline:
“The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), organizes the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. The Hotline is a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center.”
1.800.656.HOPE (4673)| www.rainn.org
Online chat service:https://www.rainn.org/get-help
National sexual violence resource center: https://www.nsvrc.org/
Please remember if you are in immediate danger or need medical attention always contact 911