When a survivor is in therapy for a sexual trauma, we often talk about their triggers. Triggers are those things in life that bring back thoughts of the assault and usually lead to feelings of anxiety and fear. Triggers can be anything: smelling a cologne that was worn by the perpertrator, the anniversary of the assault, or even engaging in future sexual acts. Parts of trauma therapy can center around identifying what one’s triggers are and learning how to cope with the anxiety that they might cause. But there is one trigger that most survivors will most likely encounter, and that is hearing about another sexual assault; this could be hearing a story on the news, listening to a friend disclose that someone they love has recently been attacked, or even participating in a support group and listening to other members describe their trauma. Not only can these moments bring a survivor back into thoughts and memories of their own experiences, but they can also elicit anger in the fact that this crime is continuing.
Processing a trigger such as this can be two-fold, it is certainly a time to practice any healthy coping skills that have been learned to handle anxiety surrounding the trauma, as well as cause to become involved in prevention efforts. As with any other triggers, processing these emotions is so important; whether the processing comes from talking to your therapist, joining a support group, writing in a journal, or singing at the top of your lungs, processing and releasing emotions is vital.
The road to ending sexual violence may be long, but efforts are out there to make it happen.