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What is Involved in Sexual Assault Counseling?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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Sexual assault counseling is often recommended for any person that has been a victim of a sexual assault. This type of counseling may begin immediately after an assault, or even years after rape, molestation, or sexual abuse occurred. The main goal of sexual assault counseling is to help victim's deal with the wide variety of psychological responses to a sexual violation, as well as provide counseling to romantic partners or relatives of an assault victim.

There are many common issues that an assault victim may experience. After the shock of the incident has worn off, victims may be confronted with feelings of rage, shame, fear, and even denial. Since not every person will experience the same feelings in the same order, sexual assault counseling provides a victim with a counselor willing to help with his or her specific feelings, thoughts, and concerns. Self-image problems, fear of another attack, inability to engage in sexual contact, or relationship problems caused by an assault can all be safely discussed in sexual assault counseling.

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The process of psychological healing following a sexual assault may take varying paths. Just as each person experiences different emotional paths, the time-frame for healing may be very different for different people. Sexual assault counseling may last weeks, months, or years, based on what the individual survivor needs. Initial counseling may help manage the shock of the assault, initial emotional reactions, and dealing with issues such as pressing charges and speaking to police. Long-term sexual assault counseling may shift focus to deal with the effects of the trauma on mindset and lifestyle.

Counseling sessions may be done one on one or in group settings. For those coming to sexual assault counseling for the first few times, many experts recommend at least a few private sessions to help assess current concerns and help develop a plan for managing or treating them. Group sessions may be recommended as a means of connection with other assault survivors. Meeting in a group with a counselor can help reduce feelings of isolation or shame by helping survivors with similar worries, fears, and anger, identify with each other.

For people involved in a romantic relationship that is suffering in the aftermath of the assault, sexual assault counseling may be recommended for both partners. It is very easy for the partner of an assault survivor to feel rejected, guilty, and even self-loathing for desiring a return to a normal relationship. Counseling for partners focuses on what they can do to establish a safe place for their significant other, and helps them manage their own emotional issues following the assault of a loved one. In some cases, couples counseling may be a good way to help a relationship survive an assault, while in others, individual counseling sessions for each partner may be more helpful.

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