10 Survival Tips for Survivors of Sexual Trauma When News Coverage is Triggering

Posted by on in Blog, Self-care, Therapy, Trauma | 0 comments

I wish I could say I was surprised by this latest news cycle and the backlash that followed.

But, when you’re a trauma therapist, you become a repository for some of the deepest secrets and pain humankind can offer.  You don’t get to have the luxury of denial.

And you get to see fierce, quiet displays of courage in your clients every week as they heal.  It is sacred work I feel lucky to do each and every day.

But, the point of this article isn’t to talk about the privileges and hazards of my profession.  I’m writing this for all the survivors of sexual trauma out there.  I know there are a lot of us.

You’ve probably already seen plenty of posts about how to take care of yourself in the midst of last week’s hearings.

I wanted to add my own voice to the story, mostly because self-care sometimes doesn’t come easily or naturally, and because we often need frequent reminders of these things.

So, without further ado…

Ten Survival Tips for Survivors of Sexual Trauma When News Coverage is Triggering

Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash.

1.)  Be a thoughtful curator. I’ve written before about curating news content as a survival strategy during times of national trauma.

Thoughtful curation of how you engage with social media & news is a crucial strategy.

Stay informed if that feels important to you, be involved and politically active if that feels meaningful—just remember, moderation is important here.

The cultural changes happening in our country are a long game—use practices this week that are self-preserving if you need to.

2.)  Do the thing, even if a part of you doesn’t feel like it. You know what I’m talking about—all that self-care stuff.

I unrolled my yoga mat yesterday for the first time in a good long while and felt resentful the whole time about it.  I did a brief practice and felt much better afterwards.

It’s not uncommon to resist the things that are good for us, especially if we’re in a headspace of fear, anger, or helplessness.  A good trick for this is to start some self-care and do it for 2 minutes.  If after 2 minutes, you’re still not down, go ahead and stop and do something else.

Photo by Ben Krygsman on Unsplash.

3.)  Honor the ebb and flow. There are seasons for everything.  If you’re a survivor, you already know deeply about the burden of these experiences.  So, you don’t need to go wading into your newsfeed to hear talking heads go over all the details of someone else’s trauma.

Sometimes with trauma, we can develop an almost obsessive preoccupation with researching and finding out all the details.

I know this impulse.  If this is you, check in with your body as you’re researching—respect whatever messages come back.  Pace yourself.  The news isn’t going anywhere.  Remember that your body is along for the ride, too.

4.)  Stop comparing. One common strategy for coping with trauma is to compare one’s experiences to others.  There is no standard metric for trauma, in the end.

Trying to understand your own experiences in relation to others’ is an understandable impulse—it just doesn’t work.  Trust your own feelings—you don’t need to build a case for anyone about what happened to you.

Your experiences and feelings about those are meaningful and matter, no matter what anyone else has told you.

Photo by Wim van ‘t Einde on Unsplash

5.)  Cultivate community. A huge piece of what shapes trauma is the context—who we are surrounded by and supported by (or not) before, during, and after a trauma.  So, cultivate supportive community.

This community may be peopled by people—in person, or online in forums, or using a crisis hotline to reach out when things get difficult. 

It may be pets, or paints, or other creative endeavors where you can represent your feelings on the page or canvas.  Catharsis through art is powerful stuff.

Creative projects and journaling can be deeply therapeutic (yes, there’s research that supports this).  It may be spiritual or meditative practice, or connecting with the earth through gardening or other comforting ritual.

Plants and trees offer a kind of community, too.

6.)  Seek good nourishment. If you’ve experienced trauma, you may have a complicated relationship with food.  Many of us do.

If this is you, do your best to nourish yourself with regular meals and snacks.  Try to remain present as you eat.

When you miss the mark, try your best to hold it all with compassion.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

7.)  Hold compassion for all aspects and parts. During this stressful time, you may resort to some coping strategies you feel embarrassed by or ashamed of.

Try to reframe these tactics as protectors rather than habits to be gotten rid of.

The best place from which to make changes is a place of acceptance and compassion, not shame and guilt.  Moreover, this is not the week to be challenging yourself in the self-improvement arena.  Give it some time.

8.)  Loving boundaries. Boundaries are a challenge for many of us who’ve experienced trauma.

Even so, this is a good time to practice saying no—to extra work, to putting in loads of emotional labor explaining things to people, to requests for favors, to an inbox full of email.

Decline where you need to, ask for help with the rest.

9.)  Bring your body in. Some of us need to slow down and hibernate when things become difficult.  Others find comfort in quick rhythms and busy schedules to feel organized and safer inside and out.

Know the language that your body speaks in and listen to its cues.  Do you need a brisk walk around the lake, or a nap?

10.)  This too shall pass. It’s trite for a reason. But when you’re down in the thick of things, it’s hard to remember.  Ask loved ones to help you remember this.  Paint it on a canvas.  Set it as your desktop background.

Mindfulness is a powerful antidote to life’s hardship.  Sometimes we can change things—and sometimes we can’t.  Being present to your body and your heart’s feelings and experiences is what will make the difference.

When we are accompanied in the midst of trauma, we can bear almost anything.  We can start this accompaniment within, by attending to our own feelings and pain with compassion and tenderness.  All else follows that.

Do you need to talk to someone now?  RAINN offers free services through their National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).


I am holding all survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones in heart and mind this week.  Please take gentle care of yourselves.


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