We usually understand physical trauma to be the result of an accident, a fight, an attack or the result of a disaster, war or even a debilitating disease. It hurts! And it takes time and support to heal.
The same is true for emotional or psychological trauma. It also hurts—and takes time and support to heal. We know now that this kind of trauma can be the result of other events like physical, emotional or sexual abuse or assault, as well as any important loss or threat, even if there has been no physical damage. With emotional trauma we often experience a loss of a sense of our own personal power. This damage can be as traumatizing as any physical assault.
The essence of trauma is that:
- It causes intense and ongoing pain.
- It was unexpected.
- We are unprepared for it.
The actual event is not what determines our traumatic reaction, but rather our own experience of the event. This means that no two people will react exactly alike to similar trauma. However, there are some reactions that are most common in traumatic reactions. These are:
- Sleep or eating problems
- Ongoing fatigue
- Depressed or anxious mood
- Emotional numbness
- Withdrawal from activities
- Difficulty concentrating
Additionally, some people experience:
- Panic attacks
- Being “triggered” (flashback)
- Guilt/shame reactions
- Drinking/ using other drugs in an attempt to cope.
Sometimes the effects of trauma are not felt immediately. We may return to our “normal life” and not notice aftereffects until weeks or months later. If we experience abuse, assault, stalking or harassment many of us will try to return to the way it was before the problem as quickly as possible. It is not at all abnormal to seek help after a period of months or more.
None of us wants to feel helpless. We may fear that asking for help will result in our seeing ourselves as weak and small. After trauma or victimization, this feeling “little” is the last thing we want!
The UNCW offices offering support for victims and those who care about them are convinced that asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness. In fact, for any of us, it takes strength to seek support when we have been hurt.
The CARE office seeks to help victims and those who care about them by offering respectful support and clear information. Call 962-7514 or 962-CARE. You can also email Dornd@uncw.edu for a confidential consultation or call 910-512-4821 after hours.
For moreinformation about experiences, resources, and recovery related to sexual assault, see our Survivor Packet.