Dealing with the trauma following a sexual assault is a tough process, and one that each survivor deals with differently. For Andrea Pino, a sexual assault survivor who has become a leading voice in the conversation about campus rape, the healing process hasn’t always followed a straight course.
“Sometimes, even now, I still feel like a victim. And I sure felt very strong in the beginning, but it wasn’t very long before the PTSD started kicking in,” Pino told HuffPost Live last week. “I started having flashbacks. I felt very unsafe. I did what I used to call Excedrin lattes; I had such strong migraines as soon as I would wake up in the morning, and I would pop an Excedrin and drink a latte just to get to my classes.”
Pino, who was featured in the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” described her sexual assault as “shackles” that were with her throughout various aspects of her college experience. She told HuffPost Live:
“One of the hardest things I had to deal with was even telling therapists that my trauma wasn’t just my assault. It was walking around campus. It was the fall of leaves startling me as I was walking. And it was sometimes even the ticking clock in my classroom reminding me that I was going to be late for an assignment. I think those pressures just they compound the trauma and they just add on to PTSD.”
According to licensed psychologist Malakai Coté, the healing process is all about “reclaiming aspects of safety, connection [and] meaning” in the survivor’s day-to-day life. While speaking to a professional is one way to do so, Coté recommended group healing as well.
“Group modalities are really helpful — whether that’s peers who are also survivors, having the opportunity to be validated … being held, knowing that you’re not alone within a process,” Coté added.
Getting back into the swing of “doing normal things” was the most effective form of healing for Pino.
“I really enjoyed running in the trails behind my apartment. I really enjoyed having coffee dates with my friends and talking nothing about school, nothing about work and really about who we were,” she said.
Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation about healing after sexual assault here.
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