To bear witness to sexual trauma is a challenging experience for professionals who are responsible for providing the care for a victim of the sexual violence or abuse and responsible for proposing the effective therapy in order to help to overcome the consequences of the trauma (Van der Kolk, 2014, p. 54). In this context, it is important to focus on the capacities of professionals to address the cases associated with the sexual trauma experience. This paper aims to provide the discussion of the professionals’ responses to the situation of bearing witness to sexual trauma, to analyze the personal reactions to the case, and to discuss the effective therapeutic healing proposed to help the client cope with the sexual trauma effects.
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Responses to the Situation of Bearing Witness to Sexual Trauma and Learnt Experiences
In order to respond to the case of sexual trauma appropriately, it is important to demonstrate sensitivity along with the effective use of professional skills. The main purpose of the response is to guarantee that the victim of the sexual trauma will be able to cope with the following traumatic thoughts, and her safety will be guaranteed. The problem is in the fact that to bear witness to sexual trauma, it is necessary to involve social and often legal organizations in order to assist the victim of sexual violence or abuse.
It is important for the professional to balance the necessity of involving other organizations in the case and protecting the client’s privacy, safety, and psychological comfort. In this case, a professional faces a problem of addressing the needs of the client to overcome the caused damage and of responding to the issue in the most appropriate and sensitive manner (Herman, 1997, p. 32).
Persons having the sexual trauma that can be associated with the sexual violence that occurred in childhood or adulthood are often scared, suffering from painful thoughts, and passive or aggressive, depending on the trauma effects. Therefore, a professional can feel difficulties while talking with such clients about the aspects of the sexual trauma, can be surprised to learn the details associated with the relations in the clients’ families, and can be challenged with the necessity of developing the individual approach to the therapy in order to help the clients in their everyday functioning.
The most controversial experience is associated with being exposed to the material about child sexual abuse as the current problem or as the cause of the observed sexual trauma and long-term negative effects. Having studied the material about the sexual trauma associated with child sexual abuse, it is possible to react emotionally to the problem (Van der Kolk, 2014, p. 64). In order to avoid causing harm to the victim because of the emotional response, it is necessary to overview the learned details of the case, analyze the appropriateness of involving other specialists to provide the most effective care, and to concentrate on those details of the case that give the information about the victim’s feeling of loneliness, being shamed, having no trust in others, having the damaged self-esteem and problems of dysfunction in the certain areas of life.
The Therapeutic Healing for Sexual Trauma
Sexual traumas, especially those ones that are associated with child sexual abuse, have the extremely negative effects on the persons’ vision of themselves and the aspects of their life. Those people who became the victims of the sexual abuse usually feel fear, shame, anxiety, depression, and helplessness, especially if the fact of the abuse was witnessed. Furthermore, persons having the sexual trauma often demonstrate dysfunction in their personal life because they cannot get rid of post-traumatic thoughts and changed attitudes to their body. Persons with the posttraumatic stress disorder associated with the sexual trauma can be oriented to taking responsibility for the actions of abusers (Van der Kolk, 2014, p. 128).
The victims of the child sexual abuse are inclined to conceal the aspects of their sexual trauma and to protect the abusers or witnesses because of their feeling of guilty (Van der Kolk, 2014, p. 129). They can also become aggressive or focusing on memories about the traumatic experience (Van der Kolk, 2014, p. 150).
From this point, it is important to propose the effective therapeutic treatment for victims of the sexual abuse oriented to overcoming traumatic memories, changing the attitude to the situation, and overcoming the painful feelings and emotions. Furthermore, it is important to provide the support for the client in terms of encouraging the participation in the therapy, re-establishing trust in people, improving social interactions, and increasing the personal self-esteem. The cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most actively used therapies to address the discussed purposes of the healing.
The cognitive behavioral therapy is important to overcome the person’s posttraumatic stress disorder and to orient to living the full life without traumatic memories and attitudes. The cognitive behavioral therapy should be chosen to work with persons suffering from the sexual trauma in contrast to the other approaches because this therapy is rather complex and it allows the person to concentrate on the causes of the posttraumatic effects in order to be able to resolve the psychological problems observed in the present moment. Being involved in the cognitive therapy, victims of the sexual abuse have a chance to share their memories and thoughts with a person who will not judge them.
According to Herman, the sexual trauma seems to be encoded or fixed in the mind while causing the person’s dysfunction (Herman, 1997, p. 112). In this context, the only way to cope with the problem is to help the client speak about it and form the specific attitude to the experienced situation. The therapy is necessary to help persons cope with the feelings of shame, anger, anxiety, guilt, and betrayal (Van der Kolk, 2014, p. 243). In addition, the therapy is important because the therapist actually teaches the person suffering from the sexual trauma on how to face the occurred violence and overcome the dysfunction and depression.
From this point, it is important to state that the work with the clients having the sexual trauma is a kind of challenge for professionals who need to address the problem effectively and to propose the treatment that will provide high positive results. The provision of the therapy for clients with the sexual trauma is based on the key principles of the posttraumatic stress disorder therapy combined with the elements of the cognitive behavioral therapy. Therefore, the task of the professional is to help a person speak about the case and then develop the strategy with the help of which the client will be able to cope with traumatic feelings, attitudes, visions, and beliefs.
Herman, J. L. (1997). Trauma and recovery. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York, NY: Viking.