Survivors of sexual violence will feel a whole range of emotions about what has happened. You might be feeling sad, angry or numb. There is no right or wrong way to feel.
Illustration credit: https://www.instagram.com/journey_to_wellness_/?hl=en
It’s OK if you don’t know how you feel, if sometimes you feel nothing, or if you have a thousand feelings at once.
The feelings wheel might help you work out the words for what you are feeling.
Illustration credit: https://www.instagram.com/lindsaybraman/?hl=en
You are also allowed to have positive emotions: If you feel happy or laugh, that doesn’t mean that what happened to you wasn’t serious. Whatever your gender, you are allowed to express your feelings whatever they are. It can be helpful to find different ways of expressing your feelings.
Sometimes the feelings you are having might be really scary or new and seeing a support worker at the Rosey Project can help you to work through these feelings. It’s OK to give yourself space to allow yourself to feel what you feel without judgement or resistance.
You might feel angry about what you have experienced. This is totally normal and you don’t need to be afraid of this feeling. Lots of people aren’t comfortable with their anger, so it’s really useful to find safe ways to express it.
Illustration credit: https://www.instagram.com/frizzkidart/
Ways to express your anger:
- Scribble on photos of people in magazines/newspapers
- Stab the skin of an orange
- Throw ice cubes at the bathtub wall, at a tree
- Have a pillow fight with the wall
- Scream into a cushion
- Tear apart newspapers, photos, or magazines
- Go to the gym, dance, exercise
- Listen to music and sing along loudly
- Draw a picture of what is making you angry
- Beat up a stuffed bear
- Pop bubble wrap
- Pop balloons (write on them what you are angry at first)
- Splatter paint
- Scribble on a piece of paper until the whole page is black
- Fill a piece of paper with drawing cross hatches
- Throw darts at a dartboard
- Go for a run
- Write your feelings on paper then rip it up
- Speak to a friend about why you feel this way
- Stamp on your recycling – tins, cardboard, plastic bottles etc
- Stomp your feet
- Play badminton or tennis
- Break sticks
Sad and low
After a traumatic event it is normal to feel down and sad sometimes. Something really bad has happened to you and you are allowed to let yourself feel your feelings.
Illustration credit: https://www.instagram.com/frizzkidart/?hl=en
For some survivors, this might turn into depression. Depression isn’t just feeling sad, you might also find that you have no motivation, you are very tired, you have no appetite and you don’t enjoy the things that you used to enjoy. If you feel like this it might be a good idea to speak to your GP.
This is one survivor’s account of the way that sexual violence made her feel:
It’s weird, isn’t it, that it’s almost as though you are going through grief? I mean, is losing yourself the same as losing someone close but external to you? It sure felt like it. Think about it though, who is the closest person to you, who knows your thoughts, your feelings, your needs, wants and desires? How can it be that there’s a person staring back from the reflection in the mirror that looks exactly like you, when in fact you’re not there anymore?
Your body. A broken temple no longer worthy nor to be desired. These sacred pieces of you always taught to be private, yours and only yours, to be kept for someone you love, no longer that. Snatched by him. Now, just broken, ravaged beyond repair.
Your personality. That bubbly person that would engage in conversations about the world with complete strangers and compliment people’s perfume. The humour that would make your friends cry with laughter and love you. That clumsy side to you that people wouldn’t change even if their rug was ruined from tea stains. No longer there as he took it. He took it with your body.
Your feelings. Either nothing or 10 feelings at a time. There’s no in between nor do I have the ability to process or understand what these feelings are. Is it sadness, is it anger or is it just guilt? Maybe it’s a mixture. Who knows? I don’t.
Your relationships. What relationships? You mean, loved ones, friends, partners that have now been replaced with your bed, your anxiety and the emptiness in your tummy? He replaced this because he believed you were not worthy of love, but is his opinion the one in the world? Are you going to let him decide who you love?
How can you continue navigating through this body-orientated, socially challenging, materialistic world when you have lost yourself and your way?
Some things you can do if you are feeling low:
- Give someone a hug with a smile
- Put a face mask on
- Journal about your feelings
- Draw or paint
- Look at the sky
- Call a friend and ask for company
- Buy a soft toy
- Watch your favourite TV show or movie
- Eat something really sweet
- Remember a happy moment and relive it for a while in your head
- Treat yourself
- Look at things that are special to you
- Make sculptures
- Watch fish
- Play with a pet
- Have or give a massage
- Imagine yourself living in a perfet home and describe it in your mind
- Allow yourself to have a cry
- Make a tray of special treats and tuck yourself into bed with it and watch TV or read
- Carry tokens to remind you of comforting things/people
- Take a hot bath with bath oil or bubbles
- Curl up under a duvet with a hot chocolate
Illustration credit: A survivor who got support from the Rosey project