Sometimes I need a break from the news
After hearing and seeing all the recent reports of sexual harassment, abuse, and rape in the news and on social media; I felt moved to share resources for those in need of support. I have been stirred by survivor’s stories, angered by abusers’ non-apologies and frustrated by by-stander’s apathy.
I hope there will be comfort and healing for those who have stepped forward as survivors. And I hope there will be accountability and contrition by the abusers. But most importantly, I hope there will be a change in our collective dialogue about all forms of abuse. Because this is not a “Hollywood” thing; it is a “Holy crap; we need to do better” thing.
Sexual abuse and counseling
Prior to opening my private practice, I primarily worked in substance abuse treatment programs, including during my grad school internship. In those treatment programs, clinical staff had to complete an assessment that asked very specific questions about all areas of a client’s life. While this assisted the therapist in identifying client needs and assisting to create meaningful treatment recommendations; it could feel very invasive.
When I was a green intern and attempting to complete those assessments, I frequently stumbled. I read the question, “Did you ever experience any type of abuse”, typically with my eyes averted. It made me uncomfortable. At that time, I was afraid that talking about abuse might create more trauma or shame. For the client or for me.
However, I quickly learned that among substance abuse clients–abuse was the norm, not the exception. The use of alcohol and other drugs often started as a coping mechanism for dealing with the trauma of abuse. Physical, emotional or sexual abuse felt like the true elephant in the room; not the drinking or drugging. Most of my clients had experienced some level of abuse in their lifetime and the experiences and memories still impacted their emotions, beliefs and behaviors. Women and men.
And not talking about it? Well, that only created more shame, isolation, pain, fear and trauma.
Over the years, I got very comfortable talking about abuse; but asked, “Would you be comfortable sharing your abuse story with me?”. I witnessed the benefit of the client’s participation in individual and group sessions and social support groups: an outlet to share, space without judgement, somewhere that someone got them, a place to learn about healthy boundaries and relationships, and support for learning new ways to care for themselves.
Watching a fellow human heal and reclaim their power is an incredible experience. We all deserve to feel safe, have an opportunity to heal and grow into the most amazing expression of our true selves.
My private practice’s primary focus is no longer clients who are actively abusing alcohol and other drugs. However, clients who have been impacted by some form of abuse is still the norm, not the exception. I am always in awe at each client’s act of bravery in reaching out for help. And I am hopeful that even the ones who are not ready for change today will eventually find their safe space.
How many lives are impacted by sexual harassment, abuse, and rape in America?
Sexual harassment, abuse and rape statistics from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistic:
- Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
- And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child.
- 1 in every 7 victims of sexual assault is under the age of six.
- 1 in 4 victims of sexual assault under the age of 12 is a boy.
- From 2009-2013, Child Protective Service agencies have substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that 63, 000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
- 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
- 3% of college women indicate that they have been forced to have sex in a dating situation.
- 62% of female college students report having been sexually harassed at their university.
- 80% of that harassment is peer-to-peer.
- 51% of male college students admit to sexually harassing someone in college.
- 1 in 33 American men have experienced an attempted or complete rape in their lifetime.
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
- 20,300 members of the U.S. Military were sexually assaulted in 2014.
- 10,600 victims were men and 9,700 were women
- 38% of women experience sexual harassment at work
- Nearly 6 out of ten sexual assaults occur in the victim’s home or the home of a friend, relative, or neighbor.
- Only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.
- Only about 2% of all sexual assault accusations reported to police turn out to be false. This is the same rate of false reporting as other types of violent crime.
What can I say to a loved one?
According to RAINN, the following are helpful phrases when a loved one tells you that they have been sexually assaulted, raped or abused:
I believe you. / It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.
It’s not your fault. / You didn’t do anything to deserve this.
You are not alone. / I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.
I’m sorry this happened. / This shouldn’t have happened to you.
IF YOU NEED HELP NOW; HELP IS AVAILABLE:
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255
Trevor Lifeline: 866-488-7386
I am not in crisis, but want more information:
Elgin Community Crisis Center: Serving Kane County
Crisis Hotline: 847-679-2380
Mutual Ground: Serving Southern Kane and Kendall Counties
Domestic Violence Hotline: 630-897-0080 (24hrs)
Sexual Assault Hotline: 630-897-8383 (24hrs)
For more information, please go to RAINN’s website: https://www.rainn.org/
For information on Domestic Violence, including statistics, please go to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) at http://www.ncadv.org/
How do I find a trauma-informed therapist?
If you need any other resources, please feel free to email me at email@example.com