Survivors Guide

FeelingsShameAs a survivor, you may be experiencing:
– Anxiety
– Fear
– Shame
– Guilt
– Blame yourself for the abuse
– Low self-esteem
– Sexual problems
– Fear of medical procedures
– Interpersonal problems – lack of trust
– Fear of parenting or abusing own children
– No self-worth
– Feelings of persecution
– Relationship problems
– Drug abuse
– Alcohol abuse
– Addictions
– Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
– Phobias
– Agoraphobia
– Eating disorders
– Flashbacks

It is important for survivors to recognise that all of these things are normal and the feelings of guilt and shame are part of being a victim.

Self Harm
Self-harming behaviours are very common in survivors, particularly when they feel unable to express feelings such as rage, guilt, sadness or when they are remembering details of the sexual abuse/rape. Healing from the effects of sexual abuse/rape often involved painful and difficult memories resurfacing. Break the Silence will allow you to look at past coping mechanisms and enable you to find less harmful ways of dealing with your pain.

Flashbacks are vivid memories in which a person feels they are re-experiencing past events. The flashback produces a vivid recollection or picture of this incident and includes the intense emotional reaction and physical pain experienced at the time and visual, auditory and tactile memories of the abuse itself. At times, the survivor may experience such intense flashbacks that it feels as if the abuse is happening again. Flashbacks are one of the ways in which blocked-off feelings and memories can surface.

Dealing with Flashbacks
Remind yourself that this isn’t happening now, even if it feels like it. You are remembering something that may have happened years ago. Breathe slowly, focus on your breathing and ground yourself. Re-orientate yourself to the present by becoming aware of your surroundings. Identify what triggered the flashback and write it down. Remind yourself that you are an adult now and try to calm and reassure the part of you that is frightened.

After the Flashback
Flashbacks can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Take time to recover – rest and be kind to yourself.

Triggers may involve general reminders of childhood and/or trauma. A trigger is anything that reminds you of your abuse/rape or brings up feelings associated with the abuse/rape. Triggers often operate out of our awareness and can come through any of our senses. Identifying your triggers may, in itself, lessen the effect they have on you.

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