Beyond Language

I am increasingly invested in articulating a wider truth about sexual violence recovery – that it is not overnight, and it might be something we negotiate for life – not because I want to overwhelm or intimidate survivors, but rather to affirm and bring to the surface what so many of us already know to be true from our own experience. I share because resourcing more and more survivors with tools, practices, rituals, healers and possibilities for resilience that are not fixed but are ever-evolving, allows them become their own best expert - the authority on themselves and their lives. Through this simultaneously organic and intentional process they may be empowered to pave their own way, to recognize they are unique yet not alone in this dynamic struggle, and to fully own through post-trauma embodiment, their own truth about trauma, grief and pain. Having felt so much beyond what words alone can measure, we have glimpsed the self beyond ourself, the immeasurable breadth of who we are, the knowing that understands the unknown, and it seeps now – into our cells, our dreams and our laughter. I have highlighted four healing arts practices that have supported my journey to heal after sexual violence, acupuncture, yoga, massage and art therapy, in the hopes that survivors will have a clearer understanding of how these techniques might help them. Importantly, since talking about trauma can be triggering, survivors can feel confidence that these methods do not require having to tell their story in order to deliver healing and thereby have more options available to them.

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Tapping the Intrinsic Power of the Mind in Healing

Since surviving sexual violence, my body has long been my anchor, even with the unpredictable volatility of its tremendous feeling and sensation – it is the only place I call home. I can orient myself to the moment by simply following its natural rhythms and filling up on the flow of adrenaline, endorphin and ecstasy. Yet, sometimes I wonder why I have chosen to rely so heavily on my body for grounding when it also presents such intensity with its flooding of hormones, racing of the heart and prickling of the skin? Why would I risk living from such a delicate edge of pain and pleasure not knowing when either will evolve towards or devolve back away from balance? And why now this new desire to investigate my mind, when contemporary trauma research urges modalities that focus on survivors befriending their bodies through physical movement? Is my recent curiosity around searching my mind for equanimity an unconscious attempt to avoid all that still stirs beneath my skin? Is the flow of my healing running counter to the current? Or, am I re-learning all over again, that I have to drop everything I am told externally about the path of healing and endeavor to trust what makes sense in my being in this very moment?

I’ve relied upon my body to stabilize myself when moods and situations became unsettling and in a sense, to slow down the speedy, dark thoughts of my mind. Many survivors are directed to psychological support after rape, and it might be years or decades later that they discover their own desire for healing through their physical body and the underutilized power within their own shape. The day I was raped I made a last minute choice to lace up my running shoes instead of stepping onto my already unrolled yoga mat – so connecting through my body and breath was already consistent within my regular self-care practice. Working with the body would be my starting point in healing. When I finally thawed the first layer of shock after the event, I knew that I needed to move and re-learn to feel into my body if I was going to swim across to the other side of this ocean of grief. With that as my intention, my body has been an amazing outlet for the build up of tension – physical, mental and energetic. This capability to move freely was a privilege I was born with and whose preciousness is gold to me. My gratitude for my body and its ability to run, stretch and breathe with a certain level of ease is something I once took for granted – now I humbly recognize my tremendous fortune.

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Reintegrating the Body, Mind and Spirt After Sexual Violence

The journey to heal after sexual violence is not a sprint and it is not a marathon—unlike other wounds, the ones of the spirit can linger for a lifetime. For many survivors healing is an ongoing practice, with ebbs and flows, highs and lows, and can be both exhausting and exhilarating at different points along the way…Based on my experience, I believe the benefits of working to integrate mind, body and spirit after sexual trauma through holistic healing arts remain unparalleled. Coming back into the body, connecting with one’s spirit, and addressing healing on deep, non-verbal and even energetic levels can also feel more accessible and meaningful to some survivors or may facilitate their moving through or towards the next ‘season’ of their healing journey.

As trauma has been known to disrupt the parts of the brain associated with language and speech, approaching healing through the body and spirit may be a more effective intervention for some. Not to mention the fact that words alone cannot quantify the magnitude of such an experience. I have felt and I have witnessed how simply drawing the mind into the sensation of the body, the feeling of the heart, the awareness of the natural rhythm of the breath, can create an invaluable shift or insight for a survivor. When you survive sexual violence, an event that takes many people out of their body, the healing arts reveal and return the gift of embodiment, which serves as an anchor for self-preservation.

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