What will I get out of going to counseling?
Experiencing a sexual assault, being in an abusive relationship and being stalked are major stressors and can significantly impact your life and how you may begin to think about yourself and respond to different relationships and situations. Seeking counseling can help you to sort out your feelings about the event(s), assist you in making decisions about what you would like to do next and help you begin the healing process.
I was sexually assaulted and/or sexually abused as a child. Will I have to talk about what happened to me right away? I don't think I can talk about it.
This is a common concern of many men and women who have experienced sexual assault that decide to come in for counseling. In your intake appointment, you will be asked basic information about the assault such as your age when it occurred, duration and your relationship to the perpetrator. You will not have to tell the entire story of what happened in the first session. Sessions will go at your pace. Your counselor will, however, ask questions to obtain information so that she can provide the most appropriate treatment.
My partner is abusive, but I do not want to break up. If I come to counseling, will the counselor pressure me into leaving the relationship?
Our goal is to help students build relationships that are free of violence, emotional abuse and intimidation. While counselors are concerned about your emotional and physical well-being, we cannot make you leave a relationship. Counselors are also sensitive to the conflicting emotions that students may experience as they contemplate ending a relationship. The counselor will help you explore all of your options and assist you in coming to a decision. In instances where you are not ready to leave a relationship, the counselor will help you identify ways that you can keep yourself safe.
I was not sexually assaulted, abused or stalked; my friend/partner/roommate was - how can counseling help me?
Providing support to a friend who has been sexually assaulted, is in an abusive relationship or being stalked is challenging. You may experience an increase in your stress levels, changes in your relationship and, in cases of sexual assault, your sense of safety in the world. Talking with a counselor can help you sort out your feelings and help you develop a plan for taking care of yourself as you support your friend. Seeking counseling can help ensure that you do not lose sight of your needs as you support your friend. Talking with someone may be especially helpful if you have a history of sexual violence, because sometimes hearing about someone else's experience can bring forth unresolved feelings and painful memories.
I was sexually abused a long time ago. How will it help to talk about it now?
Whether the abuse happened when you were 2 months old or 18 years old, or somewhere in-between, a history of sexual abuse can significantly affect the way that you see yourself, how you view relationships, your trust in yourself and others and how you feel about your body among other things. Many survivors report feeling "different" and often mistakenly believe that they are bad, damaged or unworthy. These beliefs are untrue and were often planted by the perpetrator(s) to blame the survivor for their behavior and prevent him/her from telling others about the abuse. Breaking the silence is the first step in the healing process. Counseling can help.
How long will it take to get over this?
Healing from the trauma of a sexual assault is not a linear process. Many survivors of sexual assault enter counseling with the expectation that a counselor will tell them exactly what they need to do to move forward from the abuse. Unfortunately, this is not a realistic expectation. Given the uniqueness of each situation, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Making the decision to come to counseling is the first step in the healing process. In collaboration with a counselor, a survivor can explore his/her feelings about the abuse and move forward in a safe and supportive environment.
Does the Counseling Center offer groups for survivors of sexual assault?
Yes, as student needs warrant, the Counseling Center offers groups therapy for survivors. Joining a group can be an empowering and transformative experience for survivors of sexual assault. First, it provides an opportunity to connect with other students who have had a similar experience, provides an opportunity for learning ways to cope with the aftermath of a sexual assault and enables students to see people in various stages of the healing process. There is an expectation that information that is shared in the group will be kept confidential. If you would like to join a group, please contact the Counseling Center at 410.543.6070.
My friend was sexually assaulted. She/He needs to go to counseling. How can I make him/her go?
Your friend is fortunate to have someone who is concerned about her/his emotional well-being. It is important that your friend is in charge of whether or not s/he decides to seek counseling at this time. When someone is sexually assaulted, they lose their sense of power and control to make decisions. One of the most important and supportive things a friend can do is to provide the survivor with opportunities to make choices. This means letting him or her decide when/if s/he chooses to come to counseling. Provide your friend with information about all of his or her options and available resources and allow him or her to make the final decisions. For example, you can direct them to this website, provide a non-judgmental listening ear and consider counseling for yourself as you support your friend.
Sexual violence, whether it's relationship violence, stalking or sexual assault, is really hard to deal with alone. Support is available. Contact the Counseling Center to schedule an appointment, if you have been affected by issues of relationship violence, stalking or sexual assault at 410.543.6070.