In Part 1 of this article, we stepped carefully through the thorny bushland that is sexual violation. We learned that at least one in six people who are Male Labelled (given a Male Label at birth) have been sexually violated (1in6.org). And we also learned that it takes someone who is Male Labelled an average of 22 years to speak about their experiences as a Survivor of sexual violation.
When that person finally decides to speak out, even if it is 22 years later, they are embarking on an essential journey towards a place where they can feel safe and connected to others again.
Talking to a trained professional, such as a psychotherapist, can help a Survivor do three things –
1. Establish safety
A Survivor needs to feel safe in the open landscape, but also they need to feel safe in their own body. Deep relaxation and grounding exercises are required to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (our body's internal soothing system), so the Survivor’s body is not permanently fixed in ‘fight or flight’ mode.
There are numerous relaxation and grounding exercises available (for free), so it is down to personal preference, but my favourites include
2. Retell the story
Talking to a trained professional about their trauma helps a Survivor to retell their story of sexual violation with a sense of control. This process can also help the Survivor to allocate blame and responsibility firmly with the Perpetrator.
3. Reconnect with society
To help the Survivor heal, they need to reconnect with the people they consider important to them (whether that is friends, family, or both). This can restore a sense of trust and faith in humankind.
There are different types of psychotherapy available, and one particularly effective approach for trauma is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR). EMDR is recognized as an “A” level of treatment for trauma, recommended by the World Health Organization and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.
Friends and Family
When a Survivor is ready to talk to friends and family, they must be given the right type of support. Here is some guidance on that –
1. Sexual Violation is not about a sexual act, nor sexuality. Sexual violation is an act of violence, it is not a sexual act. As a result, it has nothing to do with a person’s sexuality. The perpetrator intends to overpower or humiliate or hurt the Survivor, not to engage in a sexual act
2. The Survivor needs to be believed. Don’t assume the Survivor knows that you believe them. Communicate this clearly to them, because it might be the first time that they have heard this.
3. The Survivor’s emotions are valid, no matter what they are. The Survivor has had something taken away from them, so they must be allowed to feel whatever they feel. They may initially feel nothing, or they may feel scared or angry or ashamed. All of this is valid, and you should try to communicate that you have heard the nature and depth of each of their emotions.
4. They will need to grieve. As the Survivor has had something taken from them, they need to mourn this loss. The loss could be a previous identity, a loss of a sense of safety (at least for now), a loss of their virginity, a loss of childhood, or even a loss of family or friends who may have been connected to the Perpetrator
Be kind to the Survivor, and be kind to yourself
Go gently, and be kind to the Survivor, but also be kind to yourself. Sometimes witnessing someone else’s trauma can be traumatising for you. You may need a little bit of self-care, so try a simple relaxation or grounding exercise, and see where you go from there. Let me know if you need links to any of these exercises.
So what do you think?
Does any of this resonate with you? Get in touch by sending me a message privately via the Contact Page, or add a public comment below, and engage in the debate.
Chris Warren-Dickins LLB MA LPC
Therapist, writer, educator, and LGBTQ+ advocate