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For years, sexual assault has been a taboo subject. It’s something we all know happens, but many prefer not to address or acknowledge that it does. This is especially true when it comes to male survivors of sexual assault. It may surprise you to learn that 1 out of every 10 victims of sexual assault are male. This means 2.78 million men have been victims of rape since 1998. Unfortunately, while awareness and support has grown for female victims of sexual assault in the last few years, male victims are still largely ignored or forgotten. While most women feel comfortable speaking with friends about their experiences, men tend to shut down and are less likely to seek help following this kind of trauma. So how can male sexual assault survivors learn to heal and recover?
After suffering a trauma, it’s important to practice self-care in order to heal and cope with both the long term and short term repercussions of an assault. Self-care can be broken down into two categories: physical and emotional.
Emotional self-care involves your more ephemeral needs like having fun and relaxing. The first step in this process is acknowledging that an assault is never, under any circumstances, your fault. It doesn’t matter whether you were drinking, if it was a friend or trusted partner who hurt you, or even if you don’t remember all the details. Next, consider the things and activities that bring you joy. Find ways to “play” and create. Garden or paint. Play the guitar or learn how to carve. Finding ways to express yourself creatively can be a great outlet for the anxiety and stress that comes along with trauma. Look into stress reducing activities such as exercising, taking hot baths, and meditating. Take moments for yourself if you feel panicked or stressed, and find a quiet place to rejuvenate, even if it’s just for five minutes. Most importantly, give yourself permission to be as angry or as sad as you need to be.
Physical self-care covers your day to day needs. Make sure that you’re sleeping enough. Sleeping can be difficult after an assault, but sleep is vital to healing. Consider downloading a sleep-assistance app on your phone and get yourself into a daily sleep routine. A ritual of some kind can help with this. Also make sure that you’re eating properly. Though your mind needs to recuperate after your experience, your body is also in recovery mode. You need to be eating a balanced, healthy diet to stay strong physically, and emotionally.
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be alone in this time. Processing your feelings can be difficult, but there are trained professionals who can help guide you through your healing journey. A therapist’s office is a safe, non-judgemental space in which you can express all of the things you’re feeling and thinking. It’s also a great place to learn new techniques to cope with stress and anxiety. When looking for a therapist, seek professionals who have experience helping survivors. You can find a therapist by calling your insurance company or by visiting a local sexual assault resource center. There are a number of different kinds of therapists that can help you. Take the time to research which you’d feel most comfortable with. There are also a number of support groups for survivors of sexual assault. Talking with a group of people who understand exactly what you’re going through is a great opportunity for healing.
Reclaim your pleasure.
While sex and sexual pleasure are likely not going to interest you for some time, it is important to reacquaint your mind and your body to the notion of sexual pleasure. It is important to reclaim physical and sexual pleasure for yourself in order to heal and move on. Working closely with a therapist who specializes in assault and sexual disorders is a great way to start. You may also want to consider investing in a few sex toys that can help facilitate this transition back into sexual life. If you’re considering sleeping with a new partner but apprehensive about the experience, you may find that first interacting with a sex doll, such as one by California Dolls, is a good beginning.
If you’re a victim of sexual assault, the healing journey can be a long one. However, by seeking help and taking care of yourself, you can ease your way back into a healthy sexual life.