Julie Brannen, MA, LCPC, R-DMT, GL-CMA
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Survivors of sexual assault often face significant challenges in overcoming their trauma, including diminished mental and physical health, lack of financial resources to access medical care, difficulties maintaining regular routines (including stable employment, housing, and parenting), and a lack of familiarity with accessing resources and trusting service providers.
After working with many survivors of sexual assault and abuse, I notice complex patterns as a part of the healing process. I want to share some aspects to assist in a common transformation that I am privileged to witness.
I see and guide my clients into their ability to reclaim a sense of security, protection, trust and move into wholeness, worthiness, and living in integrity with their values. I call this moving from safety to sovereignty.
Trauma is what happens inside when something intense, unexpected, or painful occurs outside. There is an automatic protection mode where one learns that it is not safe to exist or express. To cultivate safety again, we have to shift this protection mode and relax the nervous system into a settled state.
This shift often includes resourcing through visualizing a safe place, person, or animal. After some time, the body will begin to associate with safety and a different way of feeling protected, moving from survival mode to healing mode.
Survivors often feel a sense of grief and loss around what happened to them. An essential part of the journey is acknowledging what was lost physically, mentally, spiritually, energetically and gathering it back.
This journey begins with moving the locus of control from external to internal and can shift the perspective to an empowered place instead of victimhood.
It is not anyone’s fault for what has happened to them. It is also not OK what happened. Forgiveness is never saying that things are OK; it just releases the heavy burden that one carries around a particular event, moment, or relationship.
The practice of forgiving takes patience, courage, and consistency. One must start within one’s own heart. A good phrase to start with is “I forgive you…”
● What is safety to me? How do I experience safety in my body?
● What are my common activators or triggers around sexuality, relationships, and my own body?
● What is my relationship to sensuality?
● In what ways have I given away my power to others?
● What would it look like to be sovereign, worthy, and whole?
● What is an example of a sovereign person, character, or energy I can connect to?
● How do I want to move through the world?
And since most of this work goes beyond words, we need to acknowledge the body. I’ll leave you with a poem from one of my favorite dance/embodiment artists, Deborah Hay.
I hope that you can read the words and feel the resonance of them within your being.
my body benefits in solitude.
my body finds energy in surrender.
my body enjoys jokes, riddles, + games.
my body engages in work.
my body commits to practice.
my body seeks comfort but not for long.
my body is limited by physical presence.
my body knowingly participates in its appearances.
my body likes rest.
my body is bored by answers.
my body seeks more than one view of itself.
my body delights in resourcefulness.
my body trusts in the unknown.
my body feels weightless in the presence of paradox.
my body equates patience with renewal.
my body hears many voices, not one voice.
my body relaxes when thoughts abate.
my body is held in the present.
~ Deborah Hay