Recognizing and Addressing Internalized Stigma After Sexual Assault
Sexual assault survivors may experience a range of emotions, including fear, anger, and sadness. However, one of the most common and challenging emotions survivors may face is shame. Shame is a feeling of worthlessness or inadequacy that can be difficult to shake off. It can affect a survivor’s self-esteem and their ability to connect with others. In this blog, we’ll discuss what shame is, how it affects survivors of sexual assault, and some strategies for overcoming shame.
What is Shame?
Shame is a feeling of unworthiness that can arise from a variety of experiences, including trauma. It often involves negative self-talk and self-criticism. When someone experiences shame, they may feel like they are fundamentally flawed or damaged. This can lead to a sense of isolation and disconnection from others.
How Sexual Assault Can Lead to Shame
Sexual assault is a traumatic experience that can be deeply isolating. Survivors may feel like they are the only ones who have experienced such trauma, and that others will judge or reject them if they disclose what happened. This fear of rejection can lead to internalized stigma and shame.
Survivors may also blame themselves for the assault, even if they were not responsible for what happened. This can lead to a sense of guilt and self-blame that can fuel feelings of shame.
Strategies for Overcoming Shame
Overcoming shame is not easy, but it is possible. Here are some strategies that may help:
- Recognize and name the shame.
The first step in overcoming shame is to recognize and name it. Acknowledge that shame is a normal response to trauma, and that it is not something to be ashamed of.
- Practice self-compassion.
Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding. Practice self-compassion by speaking to yourself in a kind and supportive way, as you would speak to a friend.
- Connect with others.
Connecting with others who have experienced similar trauma can be a powerful way to overcome shame. Seek out support groups or online communities where you can connect with other survivors.
- Challenge negative self-talk.
Challenge negative self-talk by asking yourself if what you’re telling yourself is true. Often, our inner critic is not based on reality. Practice positive self-talk by affirming your strengths and abilities.
- Seek professional help.
Working with a therapist or counselor can be a helpful way to overcome shame. A therapist can help you identify and challenge negative thought patterns, develop coping skills, and work through trauma-related symptoms.
In conclusion, shame is a common emotion that many sexual assault survivors experience. However, it is possible to overcome shame by recognizing and naming it, practicing self-compassion, connecting with others, challenging negative self-talk, and seeking professional help. Remember that healing is a journey, and it is possible to recover from the trauma of sexual assault.