Having A Tough Time Addressing Rape Issues In Therapy

Published: March 18, 2013
Dear Having A Tough Time Addressing Rape Issues In Therapy,

when i was 8 i was raped by a 32-year-old male. the next time i had sex i was 20 and have been doing it ever since. here's the thing: i don't think i ever became emotionally ready to do it. consequently i am never satisfied and rarely enjoy it. i don't know how to even begin to talk about this, and i just started therapy and it's bringing up a lot of feelings i'm terrified of dealing with. i'm afraid i'll have a mental breakdown. i've been recommended medication but can't get myself to take it regularly. i'm very scared of what i'm feeling. is it normal? is my healing long overdue? help me please

Dear Having A Tough Time Addressing Rape Issues In Therapy,

TeenHealthFX would like to start by saying that we are truly sorry that you were raped at the age of 8. Rape is an extremely traumatic thing for anyone to deal with, especially for a young child. Having strong feelings at this point in your life about what happened to you as a child is completely normal. According the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse can deal with issues such as:

  • Understanding and setting appropriate boundaries
  • Having memories and flashbacks
  • Experiencing intense anger
  • Grief issues in terms of mourning the loss of childhood innocence and trust
  • Feeling of guilt, shame and blame
  • Trust issues
  • Problematic coping skills
  • Low self-esteem
  • A tendency to isolate
  • Sexuality issues, including feelings of detachment, fear, irritation or even shame around being sexual with others.

While the feelings are totally normal and understandable given what you went through, what FX can appreciate it that the feelings coming up for you might be very painful, frightening and even overwhelming at times. Sometimes when situations are so painful we push down the feelings and bury them. But then when we start therapy after years of repressing these intense feelings, it can sometimes feel like a dam bursting with everything flooding and rushing out all at once. To help manage these kinds of feelings, FX recommends the following:

  • Make sure you experience your therapist as warm and non-judgmental. You will need to be in therapy with someone who you feel you can lean on; someone to be there for you and who you feel can help you to hold all of these intense emotions.
  • Talk with your therapist about your support options. If you are having a moment outside of therapy where you are overcome with negative emotions, can you call her? Who else might you be able to reach out to in a moment like that?
  • If you feel the pace of the therapy is going to fast in terms of all the feelings come up for you, let your therapist know this so you can pace the therapy in a way where you won’t feel so overwhelmed.
  • Know that this can be a normal part of therapy – to have intense feelings come up that might at times feel painful or overwhelming.
  • Talk to your therapist about how you are feeling about taking medication. If you are experiencing intense anger, sadness, or anxiety, psychotropic medication can help to take the edge off, making it a little easier to tackle these issues in therapy. So if your therapist thinks that medication would be helpful for you, talk with her about what is making you feel resistant to it. FX also wants to stress that there is nothing wrong with needing to take psychotropic medications and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. Just like a diabetic might need to take insulin – they can’t do it all “on their own” through diet and exercise – some people in mental health treatment also need medication as part of their treatment plan.

FX appreciates the pain you are in, but if you are in therapy with a reputable, experienced therapist then we do think working through this pain could be extremely helpful to you in the long run, even if it does feel very difficult right now. Make sure you have your supports and be sure to remind yourself of the strength and courage you obviously have to be addressing something that is so difficult.