As Sexual Assault Awareness Month, April presents an opportunity to thoroughly investigate our attitudes towards sexual harassment, assault and abuse, and work towards prevention. It’s a chance to create community amongst survivors and allies, not just by rehashing past abuses, but sharing the strategies that lead to triumph.
Believe Your Experience
One of the reasons why survivors stay silent is because they think that no one will believe or support them. We’ve been taught that we must be the “right kind of victim” in order for our story to be heard and believed. We’ve been told that we should “brush off” everyday occurrences of harassment and that the crass objectification of our bodies is just “men being men.” This is gaslighting, an attempt to manipulate us into questioning what we know to be true.
Gaslighting happens on the micro and macro level. It could be a “friend” who tells you to ignore aggressive catcalling or it could be the president of the United States referring to sexual assault as “locker room talk.” Both experiences can be equally triggering. When this happens, try to remain present and affirm your first instincts about the situation. You might notice your body going into fight or flight mode. Give yourself permission to leave the space you are in and do what you need to do to feel safe. That might mean taking a few conscious deep breaths, calling someone you trust, drinking water, or taking a nap. It’s a good idea to become aware of the coping mechanisms that help you feel safe and grounded so that you can institute your own “emergency response system” when something triggers you.
Above all else, try not to discount or dismiss your experience. If it felt traumatic, that’s because it was for you. Denying your experience does not help you heal from it. The more that we call out street harassment and other common forms of abuse, the less accepted these behaviors will be.
Self-Care as Survival
Self-care is more than bath bombs and sheet masks. It’s identifying and committing to the practices that help you feel whole in body, mind, and, spirit. It encompasses everything from social media breaks to instituting boundaries with people who do not respect your humanity. In a society that favors abusers over survivors, self-care is a survival tool and revolutionary act.
Sexual shame and trauma can make it difficult to experience pleasure in the body. The same walls that protect us against daily acts of misogyny can serve as blocks to desire if we are not careful. While it is necessary to create boundaries in order to move through the world with more ease, we should try to have some awareness of what walls are in place and be able to consciously let them down when we are in safe spaces.
These walls make it difficult to decipher when you are holding onto energy that is not yours. A quick body scan can be a simple and effective tool for identifying and releasing unwanted energy. It can be done as you are waking up in the morning, in the shower, during meditation, before you go to sleep, or even in the middle of your workday if you feel overwhelmed. Tune into the ground beneath you and affirm that you are releasing all energy that is not yours. You can imagine this excess energy being evaporated into the air or absorbed into the earth. If you are in the shower you might picture it circling down the drain. As you let go of the unwanted energy, focus on calling back all parts of yourself. If you have time, you can briefly check in with each body part and hold gratitude for its purpose. The point of this exercise is to help you feel more comfortable occupying every part of yourself and identify where you are holding onto energy that is not yours.
Once you become comfortable with this practice, you can take it one step further and intentionally call in and cultivate pleasure within the body. Begin to notice small pleasures like a favorite taste on your tongue, the sun warming your skin, your limbs stretching after sitting for a long time. Take note of these small pleasures and practice them intentionally to invite a sense of security into the body.
If intimate self-pleasure is not accessible to you, you can practice self-touch in other ways that invite delight into the body. Self-massage can be a great tool for releasing tension as can self-embrace or kissing your hands, arms, and other parts of your body. External massage with your Chakrub can be a supportive practice if you are craving touch, but not ready for skin on skin contact. Sometimes simply witnessing that a body part feels blocked can help us become more comfortable in approaching it. It is important to be with your process and not rush it along. Accept where you are and know that progress is possible.
Mantras, affirmations, and breath work are great tools for staying present, interrupting negative thought patterns, and getting grounded. Crystals can also be used as supportive talismans, check out this blog that goes into different crystal properties.
Here’s a personal essay by Founder Vanessa Cuccia on how she used Chakrubs to increase sensation and heal vaginal numbness. Check out our Resources pages for experts you can work with to help you heal from sexual and other traumas.
Joining communities that center survivors and do prevention work can be another way to find support and heal. Whether you seek to address this issue as it relates to capitalism and financial empowerment, sexual liberation, anti-racism, or gender inequality, you will find organizations and individuals who are doing this work.
For Black sisterhood and support:
For women’s health and reproductive rights:
For skill-building and creative community:
For anti-capitalism and financial empowerment: