Another impact of sexual violence is dissociation. When something really scary is happening, our brains are wired to "switch off" to protect us from the extent of what's happening. For example, when people have been in a car crash, they often say they don't feel any pain or feel like they are watching the accident happening to someone else. If you have experienced trauma, the impacts can continue long after it's over, and if there is a trigger (like a sound, a smell or a person) your brain disconnects. You might feel spacey, like you can’t see or hear what is going on around you, or "come to" after a period of not knowing what was going on.
One survivor who experiences dissociation gave us these tips:
- Run your wrists under cold water, this will remind you that your body is yours on a physical level. It is also very refreshing and calming.
- Feel your body: This could be in a very small way, like rubbing your hands together or massaging the base of your thumb, or you can gently touch your arms to remind yourself they are there and part of you.
- Accept the feeling for the moment, as fighting it may make you feel more distressed and frozen. But do try to remember you are not going to feel like this forever – it will pass.
- Take three deep breaths in and three deep breaths out, with each breath lasting three seconds.
- Apply moisturiser to your hands. This can be a good one for public situations, as it won’t attract attention but is very grounding.
- Use a lip plumping or menthol lip balm. The tingling feeling can be very grounding and, again, won’t attract attention.
- Remember that this is a defence mechanism – your brain and body are trying to protect you from a perceived danger. Try to treat yourself with patience and kindness and know that you do have control over what’s happening, it may just take time for you to find a way to manage what’s happening to you that works – and to understand what is setting you off.
Credit: Mel Reeve, a friend of the Rosey Project @melreeve on Twitter