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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Should I talk to someone if I have thoughts and memories 3 yrs after a sexual assault?

    It's been 3 years since I was sexually assaulted, I spend a year of counselling through westcasa and recently I've been thinking about what happened quite a lot. I'm not sure if I should talk to someone as I've been so happy the last year and half and I'm not sure how to make sense of it all.
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  • 1

    Thanks

    Ralph Graham

    Counsellor

    Ralph Graham, Counsellor, Psychotherapist, helping those who are affected by:grief, loss, anxiety, phobias, panic attack.And those who have been traumatised by:crime, assault, sexual abuse and ... View Profile

    Hello,
    What you describe is deeply traumatic and sometimes the after effects keep returning. Something in your environment may be triggering the memory of what happened to you. Perhaps there was something not addressed in your counselling. You could consider counselling from someone who has a different approach to the one you saw earlier. I would advise against turning it all over in your mind trying to find the reason the event is on your mind so much. A fresh look at this with someone new could be very helpful and give you the answers you seek.

    Do focus on your current life, your work and leisure and on the ones who are close to you and support you. A strong focus on gratitude for all we can be thankful for can have an amazing effect and see if there is something you can do to help others.

    Some of these may be helpful but although unresolved painful memories may fade for a time they will not go away until they are resolved. Find someone who feels right for you to work with to get the deeper healing you may need. What state/region are you in?

  • KC

    Healthshare Member

    Thank you for your responce, I am in the western suburbs of Melbourne Victoria 

  • 1

    Thanks

    Dianne Zebic

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    Dianne Zebic has retired as of 31/01/2015 View Profile

    It would be a good idea to consider in seeing a counsellor or psychologist one that specialises in sexual assault cases so they can evaluate and assess your condition  and give you the answers you may need.

    Sometimes if you may have had any nightmares about the sexual assault recently then this could re-play in your mind when your alert and play on your conscience.

    However seeking help from a mental health professional is the way to go, so you can have a peace of mind knowing what is triggering these feelings.

    In some circumstances if a survivor of any sexual assault eg moves house, ( this itself can cause anxiety and worry for the survivor, as they fear they are in unknown territory and that they feel unsafe and that the perpertrator will find them) in this situation this can cause the survivor to start to feel worried and unsafe, or something in the new neighbourhood may remind the survivor of the sexual abuse eg, if there is a park across the road, this can trigger ill feelings and thoughts especially if the sexual abuse occurred in a park. We call this ‘Free Association’, where we associate a current event or trigger which is linked to something similar that occurred in our past.

    Our mind automatically registers this ‘Free Association’, and it can cause a person to feel and re-think things about what had happended to them previously in similar surroundings and objects.

    Some of the reasons why people may have negative thoughts about any past sexual assault incidences, especially if these thoughts have re-surfaced in the present, may consist one or more of the following, however please remember this is only a guide only,as each person needs to be thoroughlly assessed by a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis.

    1. If nightmares have started up again
    2. Moving house
    3. Change of job
    4. Feeling anxiety, and worrying more than before about anything
    5. Entering a new sexual relationship
    6. If you are being abused in any other way by others eg emotional abuse, verbal, financial abuse
    7. If you are sexually harrassed in the workplace can trigger bad memories of the assault.
    8. Feeling depressed due to unknown reasons and changes in mood for unknown reasons
    9. If you are taking any medications, maybe if there are any side effects of these medications to cause eg. anxiety etc,,,,,
    10. If maybe you have made any direct or indirect contact with the sexual- perpetrator, can trigger more bad memories all over again
    11. If you have experienced any other losses in your life at the moment eg. loss of relationship or a loss of job 
    12. If you are suffering from low self esteem
    13. If you saw someone that reminded you of the perpetrator which made you feel angry
    14 If you are suffering from PTSD - (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which can only be diagnosed by a psychologist, psychiatrist or your GP.
    15. if somebody you know told you that they were assaulted, this can trigger your past memories of your own past sexual assault.

    I hope the above may assist you, however my advice would be to seek urgent assistance from a mental health professional like a counsellor or psychologist who deal with sexual assault counselling.

  • KC

    Healthshare Member

    Thankyou for your time replying and advice. I have in the meantime booked to see my counsellor that treated me nearly 3 years ago, down side is a 12 week wait on there waiting list. Which also makes me feel like there is a lot of other victims that need the help more then myself as I have already been through all of this, but the thought if seeking help from someone else is yet a bit scary. It's just so hard for me to understand why I'm thinking about this 24/7, why my body gets this all over kind if nausea feeling… A feeling hard to explain, memories I couldn't remember no matter how I tried 3 years ago I seem to remember now. My rapist was never charged, was never interviewed. I'm going to stop blabbering otherwise I could be typing for hours. 

  • 1

    Thanks

    Dianne Zebic

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    Dianne Zebic has retired as of 31/01/2015 View Profile

    I feel if there is a 12 week waiting list to see a psychologist, that perhaps you could possibly search for another psychologist who can see you sooner. Or seek help from your doctor, who may assess you and offer you antidepressants or sleeping tablets if needed in the short-term.

    Or your other option is to search for a counsellor who deals with sexual assault counselling, and one that is registered wtih a professional association such as The Australian Counselling Association Inc or PACFA.

    Or there is a free online counselling service for survivors of sexual assault on the link below, for the NSW Rape Crisis Centre & other links below, however you may need to find these centres in your state.

    http://www.nswrapecrisis.com.au
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/rape-counselling-offered-online/2005/12/18/1134840742448.htmlhttp://www.thewomens.org.au/sexualassault


    Also Sexual Assault Centres could also possibly help you, and please find the closest centre to your region in link below and ask them if they provide counselling and if there is a waiting period?
    http://www.aboutdaterape.nsw.gov.au/finding_help/contact_numbers.htm


    Also you could contact the Victims Of Crime Services, as they could help to fund your counselling for you, I think it is about 20 counselling sessions to see a psychologist only they would pay for.
    Here is their link
    http://www.sexualassault.nsw.gov.au/VOSA/sexual_assault.html

    I hope the above information may also assist you at this point until you are able to have face to face counselling.

  • 1

    Agree

    1

    Thanks

    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about ... View Profile

    A lot of excellent advice and useful links have been provided here by others, and I encourage you to follow up in a way that seems most helpful for you.
    While you are waiting to see your counsellor, or getting the ball rolling re accessing alternative supports, I wonder if it may be useful to take some time and reconnect to what has helped in the past. A year of counselling is substantial work - what was helpful in that time? What insights helped you to get through, and what strategies were most useful in assisting you to reduce your anxiety? Don't wait twelve weeks to reconnect to your strengths and resources - part of your healing journey may be experiencing your own capacity to access the perspectives and approaches that have helped the most.
    Often what is taken from a survivor of sexual assault is her ability to feel in charge of her world - recovery happens when you experience yourself once again as being able to not just maintain internal as well as external safety, but to re-establish this when it is temporarily lost.

  • 4

    Thanks

    My name is Catherine and I completed my counselling studies at the Australian Catholic University in December 2014. As a Counsellor, I have worked in ... View Profile

    Hello there, 

    I am sorry to hear that recently you have been struggling with the sexual assault you experienced three years ago. It's wonderful to hear that you engaged in counselling for one year with West CASA. It sounds like the counselling was very helpful and supportive for you. 

    When individuals have experienced sexual assault, sometimes they will feel like they are coping very well, and other times they will struggle. What is really helpful is being able to identify what it is that you need to do to cope and manage better day to day. Sometimes in counselling, we may find we need to review what skills and coping strategies are working for us, and which are not. At times, if we get used to relying on specific strategies, they can lose its effect, and make us feel stuck. The fact that you have thought about considering speaking to someone is a positive step forward. 

    I can imagine that there are many counselling services that have long waiting lists and times, please don't be discouraged though, as there are services out there that you could contact for in the moment support/single session counselling. That is at least until you're able to see a counsellor. You might find a call sufficient enough to both learn about and incorporate a new coping mechanism or two into your daily routine. You might also find it a relief to be able to express how it is that you're feeling. 

    Some 24/7 counselling helplines that you could contact are:
    Sexual Assault Crisis Line - 1800 806 292
    1800 RESPECT - 1800 737 732

    All in all, I do wish you the best of luck, and I do hope that you will be able to find the support you need from a counsellor. 

    Take care,
    Catherine 

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