How to heal after being harassed

Choma, sexual harassment can be a deeply hurtful experience. Here is some information on the effects of harassment, as well as some of my tips on how to regain your strength if you’ve been harassed.   

How harassment can affect you

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature. It can include inappropriate comments or touching, sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal as well as physical behaviour.

If you have been sexually harassed, it can affect you in many ways. Here are a few of the issues that harassment can lead to:

Betrayal trauma: this happens if you have been harassed by someone you trust or someone who has authority over you (such as a parent, boss or teacher). Betrayal trauma can make you feel ashamed, depressed and anxious. Some people turn to alcohol/drugs and other unhealthy ways of coping because of this kind of trauma.

Institutional betrayal: this means that the institution you trust or depend upon (such as a school, company or even police force) fails to protect you. This can lead to you feeling hopeless, paranoid and unsafe.

Betrayal blindness: this happens when a victim of harassment seems unaware or forgetful about their experience. It is a survival strategy for victims who feel like they cannot face what has happened to them, or who feel they have too much to lose (such as a job, their reputation etc) if they acknowledge or report what has happened.

What to do if you’ve been sexually harassed or abused

If you are not sure whether you’ve been raped, you can read my article about it here. If you feel you may have been raped, it is important for you to get an assessment at a clinic as soon as possible. Please read my article on what to do in this situation here

To learn more about what sexual harassment is and what to do if you have experienced it, you can read here.

What other ways can help me heal after harassment?

Remember Choma that you are stronger than anything that can happen to you. Here are some things you can do to heal after an experience like this:

1. Get creative. Get out your negative emotions by expressing them through writing or any other creative outlet you enjoy.

2. Reconnect with yourself. It is important for you to reconnect with yourself by spending some time in a quiet space every day to focus on your breathing and assess how you are feeling. . Activities such as breathing exercises and yoga can help to calm your thoughts. Meditation can also help you heal by moving your mind back to a moment of peace. Sexual trauma can make us feel like we have lost our inner peace- that’s why it is important for us to try and re-gain it. It is possible Choma, trust me.

3. Avoid unhealthy behaviour. Common examples of unhealthy behaviour include drinking, smoking, drug use and risky sexual behaviour. Such behaviours may give us a release in the moment, but they eventually lead to bad consequences in the long run. 

If you find yourself using unhealthy behaviour to cope, swap it out for a positive activity instead. Exercise, eating well and working on a hobby or academic work will give you positive feelings of accomplishment and leave you feeling empowered.

4. Forgive. Forgiveness is 100% your choice, and I understand that it may not be possible in your situation. However in my experience, I have found that forgiveness is the fastest way to begin the healing process. You don’t have to forgive if you can’t or don’t want to. However, forgiving and letting go can free you from the anger and pain, and cut the connection between you and the harasser.

Reach Out

Remember that it is good for you to speak to someone you trust, such as a family member or close friend. It is also a good idea to seek professional help or counselling. 

You can call The National Counselling Line Lifeline on 0861 322 322,

Or the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 011 234 4837 or 0800 20 50 26 to speak to a trained counsellor.

You can also always contact me as well, on Ask Choma.

It is possible to heal after harassment and abuse Choma. The road to recovery may seem long but know that you are not alone. There are people who understand and can help you, and there are ways for you to take care of yourself and regain your happiness after you have gone through this experience.

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).