The emotional consequences of even a seemingly minor sexual trauma can be life long and the potential benefit of holistic somatic therapy is often transformative. The psychological damage affects many aspects of relationship with oneself and one’s body, not to mention intimate relationships. The experience “lives” in one’s body indefinitely until released. I want to believe that inflicting such harm is not the intention of many and that a culture of respect is emerging from recent knowledge and awareness. And I want to minimize lasting harm.
I have worked with sexual trauma since my training in the early 80’s when staff at the McMartin Preschool in Los Angeles were accused of molesting numerous students. These preschoolers shared their experience using awkward “child” language and play but were thought to be too young and easily influenced to be reliable witnesses. Case dismissed. Cultural denial was impenetrable at that time.
Many women and some men have consulted me about relationship, intimacy or trust issues, depression and anxiety, only to discover the origins of their misery in having been victims of sexual misconduct or abuse. Few shared this with me at the outset of our work. Rather we would discover the link in the course of the somatic (body-centered) therapy I practice, in which experience is linked together by accessing the body’s wisdom directly.
Traumatic memory is stored outside of time so the body doesn’t know the danger is over. Rather, it holds the impulse to defend or escape, often unsafe to express at the time of the incident. This frustrated survival impulse can remain for decades, expressed in symptoms and barriers to trust and intimacy, until released somatically.
Shame, denial and secrecy are most destructive, leaving people abandoned to their beliefs that they are “bad” or “damaged goods”, not knowing how to find support, healing and perhaps legal resolution. They are often not believed when they disclose to someone they trust.
Judging from the small sample of women I have known professionally and personally, most have experienced unwanted aggressive sexual overtures or worse at some time. These are not misunderstood romantic gestures as they have a quality of intimidation or force.
The “me too” movement has recently illuminated the prevalence and seriousness of sexual misconduct and abuse for, I believe, everyone’s benefit. State-of-the-art holistic, somatic therapies can offer miraculous and complete healing of the most serious sexual trauma. Increasingly more therapists are receiving this specialized training.