Today we are looking at an important topic that has touched many of our lives. Watch the video below with Dara del Rio to learn more on the ways sexual assault often goes unnoticed to both victim and perpetrator.
Hi, this is Dara with Somatic Spiritual Counseling. And today’s video is about a really important topic that I don’t think gets talked about enough, and it’s a bit taboo, and it makes some people a bit uncomfortable. So, first off, I’d like to give a trigger warning. If you or any of your loved ones have had experiences of sexual assault or rape, then this video might be a little bit triggering. And it’s important to take care of yourself and moderate your level of intake of information if you find yourself feeling activated in your body and it becomes overwhelming and uncomfortable.
That being said, this is a really important topic, and it’s something I want to talk a little bit about today, and especially around something that I haven’t really heard talked about when it comes to sexual assault and rape. So, as many of you are likely familiar, the statistics are roughly one in four people have been sexually assaulted or raped. That number skews higher for women and a little bit lower for men, but that might be due to people not reporting. Statistics aren’t everything, right? And I personally think that the statistic in general of one-fourth of the population is likely much higher in reality, because the truth is that a lot of people don’t report sexual assault or rape, and sometimes we don’t even know that it’s happened. And that’s what I want to talk about in today’s video.
Self-Blame from Boundary Violations
So, one of the most common things that happens when we undergo sexual assault or rape is that we blame ourselves. And this can happen so quickly that we don’t even know it’s happening. We can say, “Oh, this is our fault” because maybe we were asking for it, or maybe somebody tells us that perhaps we think that even though we didn’t want the interaction to take place, that because we weren’t vocal enough in saying no, or because we didn’t fight or try and run away from the situation, that it somehow comes back to us that it happened, and that it doesn’t really count as rape.
And this isn’t true at all. I’ve had clients come with stories of having passed sexual assault or rape that they didn’t realize was a violation for years after the incident. And this is really common. We have been taught to internalize blame so quickly, especially when it comes to our sexuality, that that’s our first impulse often in these situations if they’re not clear or black and white. And a lot of rape and sexual assault cases aren’t black and white. More often than not, the victim knows the perpetrator. It’s somebody that they’ve met before. It’s a friend. It’s a family member. It can even be the person that they’re in a partnership with. So, that can create a level of confusion and inability to properly name an experience that has happened. So, that’s one piece.
Working with Shame
The other piece is shame. And shame kind of creates this almost film around everything that we experience, where it’s hard to move through, it’s hard to see things clearly, it’s hard to really get at the root of what’s going on, because there’s a layer of constriction and fogginess. To me at least, that’s what shame feels like.
Shame is really, really hard to work with, unless you name it directly. And then, as soon as you name it, it can just become another thing that’s going on. My experience working with clients and in my own personal life has been that we all have some level of shame, and it’s really important to name it, so that it doesn’t consume our experience, so that it doesn’t have to be this kind of underlying force that’s always there but never quite recognizable.
So, a really good example of someone who’s experiencing some degree of shame is that they might come into a session, and they might name something that’s happened to them, and say, “I don’t really know.” They kind of make it seem like it might be their own fault. That’s kind of the big clue for me to know that there’s some level of shame. “I don’t really know why this keeps happening, but it feels like I keep doing this,” or “I don’t like this about myself.” Usually, that’s not the most helpful framework to have because usually we’re doing things for a reason, and it’s valid, and it’s okay to be doing what we’re doing.
Shame and internalized blame in sexual assault are two really important things to come to terms with. I have known so many people across such a big spectrum of gender, of age, of sexual orientation, who have been impacted both as the victim and as the prosecutor of sexual assault. It’s something we need to be more comfortable talking about as a society, as a culture, and especially in the healing profession.
Lifting the Smokescreen of Shame + Internalized Blame
So, if there’s one thing that I hope you take from this video, it’s that shame and internalized blame can often lead us to not recognize that we have been the victim or the perpetrator of sexual assault. And this can be a big wake-up call of being able to find resolution and healing from experiences in our past that are still affecting us in our bodies and in our hearts and in our memories and in our minds, but might not be totally clear yet to our cognition and our recognition.
So, that’s my two cents on this important topic. I’d love to hear if you want to share an experience you’ve had, or just your experience in general of hearing about this kind of information, what it evokes in you. So, you can get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can leave a comment below, or reach out to us on our contact page, and we would love to hear from you.
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