Virtuous Circle Counselling

Sexual Assault Counselling Calgary

In Need Of Sexual Assault Counselling In Calgary

When one experiences sexual assault, there are a myriad of emotions which accompany the aftermath. The effects often extend long after the act is complete. Seeking out professional help and sexual assault counselling in Calgary can help victims learn coping strategies to heal from their trauma.

Many victims of sexual assault suffer from a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental health issues in the months and years following the attack. Survivors may experience intense feelings of shame, anger, fear, and humiliation for a long time after being victimized. They may have difficulty trusting people or participating in activities they once enjoyed. The psychological effects of sexual assault can last much longer than the physical effects. The process through which a victim recovers from sexual violence is difficult, emotional and often complicated.

Victims are often unprepared for the aftermath of a sexual assault.  If you have been assaulted it can have an adverse impact on your life. You may experience feelings of confusion, frustration, or anger. You may also begin to withdraw from family and friends. The most important thing to remember is that these are all normal reactions, and there are people who can provide you with support if you would like to talk about what happened and are in need of counselling after sexual assault.

There are a lot of negative thoughts and feelings involved when you have been sexually assaulted. Staying busy is often a way to help manage them. Counselling, however, is geared to help you process your negative thoughts about what has happened. Many people find that therapy helps them find coping strategies for managing their emotions as well as talking through their options with a neutral person who can offer guidance and advice from a professional perspective.

What Defines Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is a crime of power and control, it is an individual or intentional act that is non consensual. It is important to remember that there are many different types of sexual assault. Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim and is a form of sexual violence and includes a broad range of acts. Sexual assault may involve physical force, threats, intimidation or pressure. There is no right or wrong way to experience sexual assault whether you have been sexually assaulted through physical force or through manipulation.

Sexual assault affects people of all ages, races, ethnicities, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Sexual assault can occur between family members or acquaintances; it doesn’t always involve strangers. There are resources available to those who have experienced this abuse.

What Are Some Of The Symptoms Of Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault can lead to serious, long-lasting problems for those who have been victimized. A person who has been the victim of a sexual assault may experience a wide range of symptoms and behaviors. While the symptoms of sexual assault will vary, there are some that may follow an incident: 

  • Fearfulness; 
  • Anxiety; 
  • Eating disorders (such as loss of appetite);
  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Trouble concentrating;
  • Sleep disturbances;
  • Apathy;
  • Physical pain.

It is important to remember that the symptoms that are displayed following a sexual assault are completely natural. No one is to blame for the effects of being attacked, and recovery is possible with professional help and sexual assault counselling in Calgary.

Sexual Assault Counselling Calgary

Other Effects Of Sexual Assault

There are many other long-term effects of sexual assault. If you or someone you know was affected by a sexual assault, make sure that you get appropriate medical attention and support as soon as possible. The sooner therapy is received, the better, because it can help with making sense of the experience, coping with negative emotions, healing from physical injuries, regaining healthy sexuality and relationships, and preventing the occurrence of secondary victimization (such as being blamed for the assault). Some of the other significant effects of sexual assault can be found below:

Sexual Health

Sexual assault is a significant risk factor for sexual dysfunction later in life. Sexual trauma affects how survivors enjoy later sexual contact, including both reduced sexual desire and increased pain, fear, or anxiety during sex. Treatment in the months following an assault can reduce or even reverse these negative effects on sexuality.

Physical Health

A sexual assault can quickly lead victims to endure a range of physical health problems, such as chronic pelvic pain, digestive problems and intense premenstrual symptoms. It is also possible for rape victims to develop non-epileptic seizures or become infected with a sexually transmitted infection, which puts them at risk of additional health concerns.

Behavioural Health

There is no single behavioral reaction to sexual assault. In fact, there is not even a “typical” pattern of emotional or physical responses to sexual violence. Research has shown that some survivors are able to talk about their attack in a matter-of-fact way while others may be overwhelmed by painful emotions and feel unable to discuss what happened to them.

While abuse can lead to other long-term health consequences, it’s most important for survivors to understand and recognize the immediate emotional effects of abuse that can lead to poor mental and behavioural health. Educating yourself about these effects and seeking help from a mental or behavioural health professional allows you to get on a path towards healing and recovery.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder After Sexual Assault

Sexual assault survivors can experience a myriad of psychological reactions following the act. The most common reaction is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), followed by depression and anxiety. In other situations, victims may experience a sense of numbness or detachment – similar to how they might have felt at the time of the assault. 

PTSD is defined as “an anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened”. PTSD is often complex, and primarily characterized by three types of symptoms: 

  1. Re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares and startle reactions; 
  2. Avoidance behaviours by emotionally removing from others and activities; 
  3. Negative perceptions about oneself that can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.

It is important for victims of sexual assault to understand how PTSD affects them and their loved ones following an assault as well as how treatment options can help.

Sexual Assault Counselling Calgary

What Are The Treatment Options For PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can leave you feeling hopeless and scared, but the good news is that there are treatments for PTSD that can help you regain a sense of control over your life. There are three main treatment options for PTSD: psychotherapy, medication and complementary treatments. Psychotherapy involves talking with a mental health provider about your symptoms to look at possible causes and find ways to manage your symptoms. Medication is also used to reduce stress symptoms and related issues such as insomnia, depression or anxiety. Some types of psychotherapy used in the treatment of PTSD are listed below:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most extensively studied treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder. It is a type of “exposure therapy” that involves having you revisit the traumatic event in your mind and challenge your beliefs about the event and its consequences. This can help you overcome symptoms such as anxiety, avoidance, and unwanted memories related to the trauma.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is one approach to therapy that may be especially helpful for treating trauma related to sexual assault. EMDR therapy centers on bilateral stimulation, which involves side-to-side movements of your eyes while focusing your attention on an external stimulus.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged-exposure therapy targets any learned behaviors that people engage in or avoid in response to situations or thoughts and memories associated with the sexual assault. The hope is that by confronting feared emotions, thoughts, and situations, you can learn that anxiety and fear will lessen on their own.

Experiencing sexual assault or PTSD can be overwhelmingly traumatic and lead to a wide range of adverse mental, physical, and behavioral health effects. As a result, it’s important to seek out and utilize available trauma services and sexual assault counselling in Calgary that can provide you with professional treatment options during this difficult time. 

A Note From Virtuous Circle Counselling

At Virtuous Circle Counselling, our team of counsellors and therapists are here to help. When you have been sexually assaulted, you need to know that there are people who are willing to listen and support you, who will not judge you or blame you for what has happened. A caring professional can help to restore your sense of self-worth, help you cope with the emotional effects of what happened, and provide practical information to assist in moving forward on your healing journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

Psychologists in Canada are bound by the code of conduct of their professional associations, such as the Canadian Association of Psychologists (CAP), which are based on their professional and ethical responsibilities as psychologists. These stipulate that therapists are required to maintain client confidentiality, with limited exceptions: When a psychologist believes that a client is at risk of self‑harm or harm to others, when child abuse or neglect is suspected, or when another licensed health care provider is suspected of having sexually abused a patient.

Sexual abuse is sometimes thought of as a physical act, like unwanted touching or intercourse. However, sexual abuse can also be experienced through verbal language, words meant to express or elicit sexual content which are spoken or written. Verbal sexual abuse has its own set of ramifications for the victim and understanding the way it works can help to combat it.

Why do so many people not report sexual abuse? It is a complicated question to answer. There are many reasons why sexual abuse goes unreported. As sexual assault services become more available and survivors begin to understand that they can have positive outcomes, reporting incidents of sexual abuse will increase. Some examples of fear-based reasons why survivors do not report abuse include fear of the perpetrator, fear of other people’s reactions to trauma, and fear of the legal process itself. Some personal reasons for not reporting abuse are the embarrassment of allowing others to find out what has happened and a lack of trust in authorities such as law enforcement.

In Canada there is no time limit, or statute of limitations, on bringing criminal charges for sexual assault. This means that you can swear a criminal complaint and file charges at any point in your lifetime. However if the defendant has died, the criminal courts will not be able to proceed with charges. The statute of limitations is a time limit which sets out how much time someone has to launch legal proceedings. As there is no statute of limitations on sexual assault, this means that you can file a criminal complaint if your abuse happened today, was committed years ago, or took place a decade ago.

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We are currently accepting new clients however being a good fit is everything in a therapeutic alliance. When you’re ready, please contact us for a free 30-minute phone consultation to see if we match your needs and goals.

We at Virtuous Circle Counselling acknowledge Moh’kinstsis, the lands where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet, in what we currently call Calgary. We acknowledge that we are visitors on Moh’kinsstis and acknowledge the Blackfoot are those who named this area as Moh’kinsstis. In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, we recognize the ancestral territories, cultures, and oral practices of the Blackfoot people, the Îyarhe Nakoda Nations, the Dene people of the Tsuut’ina Nation, and the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.