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#METOO, Now What

Disclaimer: [Trigger Warning: discussion of sexual

abuse, sexual assault/rape]

The #metoo movement on social media has been an eye opener for so many who never knew the extent of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual trauma. It has also had a profound effect on those who have been victims and those trying to move beyond their pain.

As a trauma therapist, I have held the space for the pain long before the #metoo movement exploded. I admire the courage and strength of those who have come forward publicly and shared their story. I also admire those who have chosen to not share publicly. This is your journey and no one gets to tell you how to heal from what you have been through. Every individual is in a different place in their journey. Some are farther along than others and that’s okay. As a trauma therapist, I have learned much more working directly with individuals who have been victimized than I could ever learn in my master’s program. To all of those who have allowed me the honor to hold the space for your healing, I am forever grateful. You have taught me things I could never have learned from a textbook or in a classroom.

One question that has come up, not only in the professional world but also from those speaking up publicly is, “I shared, now what?” There is not an easy answer and I hope to answer it in detail below. The simple answer is you heal. You focus on you. You learn to understand that you are stronger than what happened to you. You are much stronger than you ever imagined. As spiritual healer, coach, & renowned author Iyanla Vanzant says, "You already passed". You already passed the most difficult part, now it’s time to heal.

So maybe you spoke up about your experience and felt empowered and inspired but then are left to pick up the pieces. What can you do with all these feelings? For some it may trigger them to feel painful emotions. For others it may trigger a sense of helplessness as they continue to hear a new #metoo story every day. I don’t claim to know all the answers as everyone's experience is different. I will only share recommendations. If you are being triggered or struggling in the aftermath of the #metoo movement it might be helpful to seek professional mental health help. Be very selective in who you choose, not every mental health professional has extensive experience in this. Ask about credentials and do your research. Even within the mental health field there are significant differences. Call around and ask questions. Would you allow your primary care doctor to do knee surgery on you? I would hope not. Well your therapist should also be a specialist and chosen in the same way. You should be looking for someone who specializes in trauma. Ask about additional training, treatment approaches, and how successful they have been in the past treating someone who has experienced similar issues. Most importantly, make sure you can connect and feel truly heard in treatment. If not, keep looking you will find the right mental health professional for you.

This may not be the path you have chosen and that’s okay, however I want to make sure you are aware of some precautions. The reason I am recommending that you work with an experienced mental health professional when addressing serious issues such as trauma is you may not have the support and tools you need to confront your past trauma on your own. An experienced mental health professional will teach you the tools needed so that you can begin to address the trauma in more manageable parts.

Start focusing on self-care. Just like a house, you have to start with the foundation when it comes to healing. You cannot rebuild yourself without making yourself a priority. Begin taking care of yourself. Self-care is your foundation. Focus on those little moments and things that bring you joy, center, and re-charge you. Sprinkle small doses of self-care throughout your day. You will need lots of it. Next focus on forgiveness, forgiveness is for you and only for you. It may be hard forgiving your perpetrators at this time, honor where you are in the process. Forgive yourself for allowing the pain to consume you. Forgive yourself for carrying around the shame, resentment, and guilt all these years. If you feel ready to forgive others work on this as well. Learn about boundaries, what they are and how to implement them. Take time to envision your future. What is it that your heart desires? Start taking small steps to make it happen. If the sexual abuse happened when you were a child then know you have some deep inner child work to do. This is extremely difficult to heal on your own. I am not saying it can’t be done, however I am cautioning you with trying this on your own unless you are very far into your healing journey. An experienced mental health professional will guide you through this process so that you don't feel overwhelmed when addressing this deep emotional pain. You will need to learn how to nurture your inner child through the pain. If it occurred during your adolescence or as an adult the process is similar, however will need to be addressed slightly different as you were at a different developmental stage in your life. You need to learn to love yourself unconditionally. Learn to love everything the good, the bad, and the ugly. Develop a support system. Consider joining a support group. Not only will you be able to heal but you will help others heal as well. When you can share your story free from the emotional pain and have gained insight as to what lessons you've learned you will know that you have truly healed. This is a difficult journey; I would be lying if I told you it would be easy. It's not as easy as it appears on paper. It is a healing journey meaning you will take twists and turns. Some days you will feel better. Other days the pain will feel so overwhelming. There will be tears, lots of them. But when you come out on the other side you will find yourself in a way you never thought imaginable.

If I can be of service in your healing journey do not hesitate to reach out to

Janet Garcia, LCSW

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