Understanding Recovery

  • Published
  • By Capt. Mary McGriff
  • 379TH AEW Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
For most survivors, a sexual assault, particularly rape or sodomy, is probably the most traumatic event to ever touch their life. 

How you react and recover will be dependent upon many factors including the relationship with the perpetrator, the level of violence and duration of the attack, other life-crisis experiences, a support system, self-esteem and the strength to ask for and receive appropriate professional help. 

Recovery does not mean to forget what happened. Instead, recovery is being able to understand and believe that the assault was not your fault. Recovery is accepting the reality of what has happened, while moving beyond the immobilizing emotions, which can dominate your thoughts, words and actions. 

If no one has ever told you before, you need to know and believe the following statement: "A survivor of rape or sexual abuse will probably never fully forget what happened."
However, survivors can and do recover. The process of recovery can be confusing and painful. Throughout the process, remember that recovery can be a powerful and positive step in your life. 

All crisis events effect emotions. Emotional memories never just "go away." Therefore, the first step in recovery is to admit that you may be living with some aspects of the attack forever. 

The good news is that through recovery everyone can grow and become stronger. 

Everyone can resume a normal lifestyle. A person can regain control over their thoughts, memories and feelings. 

Recovery begins at different times for each survivor, but, generally, recovery begins the moment a person chooses to start taking control back from the perpetrator. For some, recovery may begin moments following the attack while others may not begin the process until years later. There is not a normal timeline for recovery. Everyone is different and every person should be able to move through the recovery process at their own pace and without pressure or judgments. 

Recovery involves time, strength and courage. Recovery is believing in future goals and day-to-day achievements. Recovery means celebrating the positive aspects of life. Recovery is being able to enjoy sleeping, eating and simple pleasures as you did before the assault. Recovery is being able to trust and believe in your own judgments and choices. 

The road to recovery can be long and emotional. Some survivors may, at times, want to quit the fight. They may want to bottle everything up inside or stop going to counseling or support group. Patience will help the process. 

Remember that no one is born with the knowledge needed for recovery. Everyone must learn by working either with someone who knows or by trial and error on their own. Whatever the choice, be gentle and understanding with yourself knowing recovery takes time and persistence. 

Recovery also takes commitment. The decision to begin a recovery process will be one of the most important decisions you ever make. Remember that survivors will be better able to deal with this process through the acceptance, support and comfort of friends and family members. Counselors, turning point advocates and other community professionals can also be of great benefit throughout the days, months and years following an assault. 

Talking to someone who will listen, provide support and offer information, helps far more than remaining alone and silent. Allow people to help. Believe in your strengths and look to the future with hope. 

Begin the recovery process by calling your base's sexual assault response coordinator.