The holiday season is a time of celebration and a chance to reconnect with family and friends, but it can also present challenges for some survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Perpetrators of sexual violence are usually someone the victim knows. This is especially true for children who have experienced abuse. For survivors, holiday gatherings may mean facing painful memories, feelings of anxiety, or a chance of repeated harm. Large gatherings can also make it more difficult for survivors to control if someone who hurt them in the past will be around them.
In addition to the painful memories and feelings of anxiety, survivors may face during this season, for those traveling during the holidays going through airport security screening or spending an extended period of time in enclosed spaces can be difficult.
Our 24-hour crisis hotline (toll-free at 1-800-224-2836) is a great resource for anyone needing to talk with someone or find referrals and services to help heal from the trauma of a sexual assault or abusive relationship. Remembering to take care of yourself or a friend, family member, or loved one is important to the healing process as well.
Self-Care After Trauma
Self-care is about taking steps to feel healthy and comfortable. Whether it happened recently or years ago, self-care can help you cope with the short- and long-term effects of trauma resulting from a sexual assault or violence in an intimate partner relationship.
After a trauma, it’s important to keep your body healthy and strong. You may be healing from injuries or feeling emotionally drained. Good physical health can support you through this time. Think about a time when you felt physically healthy, and consider asking yourself the following questions:
How were you sleeping? Did you have a sleep ritual or nap pattern that made you feel more rested?
What types of food were you eating? What meals made you feel healthy and strong?
What types of exercise did you enjoy? Were there any particular activities that made you feel more energized?
Did you perform certain routines? Were there activities you did to start the day off right or wind down at the end of the day?
Emotional self-care means different things to different people. The key to emotional self-care is being in tune with yourself. Think about a time when you felt balanced and grounded, and consider asking yourself the following questions:
What fun or leisure activities did you enjoy? Were there events or outings that you looked forward to?
Did you write down your thoughts in a journal or personal notebook?
Were meditation or relaxation activities a part of your regular schedule?
What inspirational words were you reading? Did you have a particular author or favorite website to go to for inspiration?
Who did you spend time with? Was there someone, or a group of people, that you felt safe and supported around?
Where did you spend your time? Was there a special place, maybe outdoors or at a friend’s house, where you felt comfortable and grounded?
Help Someone You Care About
It’s not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, especially when that person is a family member, friend, or loved one. If you’re looking for information on how to support a child, click here. Consider the following ways of showing support:
Listen. Be there. Communicate without judgment.
If the survivor seeks medical attention or plans to report, offer to be there. Your presence can offer the support they need.Encourage the survivor to get support. Share resources like the National Sexual Assault Hotline and online.rainn.org, but realize that only they can make the decision to get help.
Be patient. Remember, there is no timetable for recovering from trauma. Avoid putting pressure on them to engage in activities they aren’t ready to do yet.
Encourage them to practice good self-care during this difficult time.
(Information is taken from articles found on RAINN's website. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. https://www.rainn.org/news/strategies-survivors-holiday-season)