One of the saddest things to me, especially when it happens in Christian circles, is that victims of sexual assault are told to just be quiet, not say anything, especially don’t get the police involved because that would hurt the testimony of the church, and bring shame to the name of Christ. Where is the concern and compassion for the victim? In my opinion, the real shame here is hiding the truth until it is found, often many years later, and paints ALL of Christianity with a very black brush.
Sexual assault is, in my mind, the most personal crime there is. It is invasive at every level: Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The victim is made to feel like the criminal (“What were you wearing? Was it short/tight/revealing? Were you flirting? Why were you in a situation that could lead to rape? Did you scream? Did you fight back? We don’t see any marks or bruises, no buttons ripped off your blouse. Are you sure you’re not just trying to pay him back for dumping you?”) and sometimes the police interrogation and legal process are excruciatingly painful for the victim, while the perpetrator is seen as something of a hero. Go figure. I’ll surely never understand it.
So. Our miserable rape or other sexual assault victim has trauma at every level, and has very little help from friends, family, church, or society. I’m working with a woman who was first molested as a little girl, by her sister’s husband. She was not helped in any way. The attitude was pretty much “just suck it up now and get on with your life. Don’t talk about it any more and eventually you’ll forget it.”
Wrong, so wrong. Her greatest need was to tell what happened over and over; to tell it to someone who was not judging her or accusing her. So we’re doing that now, using EMDR, and she’s amazed at how much of what happened is coming up as she retells the story.
One of the reasons EMDR is useful is that the client is in a very relaxed mode while “seeing” the incident mentally. My favorite tool is not the traditional moving back and forth of my hand while the client watches my hand without moving her head. I find that people can develop migraines, if they are plagued with that horrible tendency. Some become dizzy and uncomfortable. Instead, I use a cool little device I call my tappers. The client holds a small disk in each hand. The disks are connected by wires to a small box that I control. It sends a vibration alternately to each disk and establishes a very calming rhythm. When I turn the tappers on, the client’s eyes are closed and she is “seeing” the event as if she were watching a movie. When I turn the tappers off, my client relates what was just seen. This process continues until the event has been completely relived.
We use a couple of scales to measure emotional and cognitive response to the process. We don’t stop repeating the story until no more new information comes up, and both scales reach a final number. By that time, the client is typically so relieved and free of all the misery that she is more than willing to tackle a different situation on her way to putting PTSD behind her.
Of course, what I’ve shared with you here is a very simplified description of a rather complex process
You can find certified providers of EMDR at http://www.emdria.org and following the search options. One of the things I like best about this process is that there are no pills. The pain of the event is resolved not with psychopharm, but with facing the situation and repeating it over and over in a relaxed and safe setting.
I was looking at a video several days ago about treatment for soldiers who suffer from PTSD. It wasn’t EMDR, but the process was very similar. Group sessions were held in which each veteran was asked to tell his story in as much detail as he could recall. Painful, frightening? Yes, at first. But with the repeated retelling, a measure of peace was found.
It takes a lot of courage to talk about what happened. In sexual assault cases, it takes a special kind of courage because the victim has been revictimized so often by our tendency to minimize the crime and maximize the blame onto the victim.
Next week, because of some feedback I’ve received, I want to do a post on male victims of sexual assault and how it affects them both differently and the same as it does for women.
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