Healing Your Spirit . . . When Sexual Assault Is in the Headlines

October 11, 2018 by Kristen Vincent

As the survivor of childhood trauma, I’ve come a long way in my healing process. This is thanks in part to years of therapy, a lot of hard work, and an incredible support network of family and friends. More so, it’s the result of learning to be still with God, to offer up my pain for God to transform, and to realize I am God’s beloved. I’m now in a place of peace, one that has stayed with me for several years now.

Kristen Vincent

And yet.

When sexual assault is in the news and the hot topic on social media, I struggle. Sexual assault survivors like me know what it feels like to be victimized. Even though we didn’t do anything wrong—nothing to deserve violence—we know what it’s like to feel shame and humiliation. We know what it’s like to keep the assault secret, knowing that if we say something we may not be believed. Thus, each mention in the media tugs on our wounds. As one of my friends on Facebook wrote, “Know that the women you know who are tearful or jaggedy or taking this all too ‘seriously' may be unwillingly reliving some of the worst days of their lives, on repeat, in a social media world.”

Indeed. Despite the progress I’ve made in my own healing journey, there were still moments when I felt remnants of the shame, fear, and grief of my own trauma. While these feelings didn’t overwhelm me the way they used to, their presence reminded me that healing from trauma is a lifelong journey, and there will be times when I need to take care of myself.

If you’ve been struggling with media coverage of sexual assault, I encourage you to take care of yourself in the following ways:

  • Be gentle with yourself. Offer yourself a lot of grace, and suspend any judgment. You are doing the best you can. This is your healing journey, so take it at your own pace.
  • Surround yourself with people who love and support you: a therapist, spiritual director, pastor, or friend. Don’t go this alone. Find people who will embody God’s love and presence for you. 
  • Take a break from social media so you’ll be less likely to read stories or comments that are potentially upsetting. 

Most important, I hope you’ll spend time in stillness with God. Though stillness can be tricky for trauma survivors — we would much rather stay busy and not have to sit with our pain —it is one of the most effective ways I’ve found to encounter God and heal. To quiet your mind and calm your fears about stillness, try creating a short phrase to repeat over and over, such as, “God is with me,” “I am safe,” or “God loves me.” You can say your phrase while driving, walking your dog, or lying in bed at night. Repeating phrases like these helps you catch your breath, calm down, focus on the present moment, and listen.

Being still can also help you:

  • Speak your truth: Picture yourself sharing your whole truth with God — what happened to you, how it affected you, the impact it’s had on your life, and what you need now. Notice that God does not interrupt, criticize, or shame you in any way. Instead, God receives your story and calls you Beloved.
  • Heal your spirit: Having spoken your truth, offer up your feelings to God. Be as honest as you need to be about your grief, anger, shame, fear, or other feelings. See how God creates a safe space for you to recognize, connect with, and then release these feelings. Notice that you are not alone.
  • Experience God’s peace: In this sacred space with God, begin to consider where you are in your healing journey. Notice whether you feel less fear or grief, or whether the situations that previously triggered your emotions have somehow lost their potency. Pay attention to your life and note the signs of God’s deep love for you, of the peace God is offering you. 

Life is not without its triggers; there will always be things that remind us of our own traumas. The key is to continue our healing journeys, to get to a place where the triggers are less intense. Trust the process, because that’s where God is, working in ways we don’t even recognize. And know that God is working to bring you toward wholeness, toward the place where you can stand firmly in this world and, no matter what, know you are deeply loved by God.

Kristen E. Vincent is the award-winning author of Beads of Healing: Prayer, Trauma, and Spiritual Wholeness and three other books on Protestant prayer beads. She travels extensively to lead workshops and retreats. She is the owner and principal artisan of Prayerworks Studio, where she creates handcrafted prayer tools. She has another book coming from Upper Room Books in Fall 2019: We Are Beloved: A Lenten Journey with Prayer Beads.


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