How to Erase Sexual Trauma
In contemporary American culture women who are sexually assaulted are encouraged to seek treatment for trauma they may have experienced. But what if we could prevent trauma from even happening? Constructing a perception that does not use trauma as the standpoint to our experiences is a proven method we suggest and will further explain in this article.
A long lasting society that exemplifies the ability to transform trauma is the Tibetan refugee (TR) community in India. Tibetan culture deals with trauma totally differently than our current American culture. For example, TR experience political violence, physical torture, living displacement, and forced religious conversion, yet they never claim trauma! TR are known for their incredible mental resilience that seems to naturally soar above suffering, fortifying their perception of life and true emotional power. In this article I will be describing the mental techniques of TR and how to apply them to female rape survivors narratives for ridding sexual trauma.
In Trauma and the Making of Flexible Minds (2013), author Sarah Lewis conducted her 14-month ethnographic field research in Bhutan, Nepal, and India. Lewis opens her study with Tibetan refugees (TR) “escaping to Dharamsala, a town located in the foothills of the Himalayas in the Northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh after the Chinese first invaded Tibet in 1949” (315). This forced TR to abandon their home and become environmentally displaced. During her research project, Lewis analyzes the healing phenomenon of lojung, which is what Tibetans relay on for spiritual direction. This concept basically refers to a mental technique that eventually leads them to cognitive autonomy…the flexible mind!
It is capable of transforming a potentially traumatic relationship to an aggressor, to one of forgiveness. In one of Lewis’s interviews a TR said, “the way one interprets negative events causes one to suffer” (313-314). Physiological anthropologists call the phenomenon of ridding trauma reframing. Reframing, in this case means not identifying as a victim. “Tibetan refugees use karma as the perceptional transforming element that does not enable them to suffer. Instead they make amends with their situation using the idea that they have paid off a karmic debt, which appears to help them create emotional and mental resilience with political [or sexual] violence” (313). So for example, if someone is violent, we view the situation as an opportunity to instill karmic balance by maintaining our share of peace.
As for a flexible mind, it means being able to construct new thought patterns that are superior to our prior one. “Transcultural psychiatry have shown how mental health interventions [such as lojung] promote greater flexibility within the mind and can help patients manage anxiety and trauma” (322). However, the deeper Lewis goes into her research with TR, the more she wonders if this form of trauma management is really emotional avoidance? One refugee puts it like this, it’s not about ignoring one’s emotions, “it’s not buying into harmful emotions” (322). In this sense it is about re-directing our thought-energy into mental framing that breeds self-respect and peace of mind. Lewis finalizes her article with, “…there is great incentive to quickly let go or transform distress. Tibetan community members encourage one another to move forward with confidence and dignity in spite of personal histories of violence” (333).
So how can reframing be applied to rape narratives?
Comparatively, we will now look at the narratives of female rape survivors from, Narrative Constructions of Sexual Violence as Told by Female Rape Survivors in Three Populations of the Southwestern United States: Scripts of Coercion, Scripts of Consent (2010). These female rape survivors were provided a space where they could talk about their narratives of coercion and consent during their interviews. According to this data, “sexual assault is among the most common forms of trauma in today’s world” (121)! Authors, Keith Bletzer and Mary Koss interviewed 62 females who experienced sexual violence in Arizona and Oklahoma. These women consisted of Cheyenne, Mexican, and Anglo women. We will analyze their narratives, while offering helpful suggestions for re-framing trauma into emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being. The idea here is not necessarily the cultural difference between narratives, but the variety of ways that women construct their narrative around sexual violence.
According to these interviews “[Mexican] women generally emphasized scripts of coercion, with little recourse to scripts of consent” (142). They discussed their sexual violence openly while emphasizing their emotional trauma. They did not discuss what consent looked like to them – instead they seemed to solely focused on coercion. This is a prime example of how focusing on negative experiences, creates negative narratives, and blinds us from other experiences, such as consensual sensual heaven! A quiet juicy experience, yet buried under trauma.
If we have felt sexually coerced than constructing a narrative that is empowering and focusing on the type of mutual sexual enjoyment you desire is what we suggest! Again, re-directing our narrative of trauma into one of empowerment is what we are suggesting. For example: “I invite sexual fulfillment into my life through the form of mutual care, consideration, respect, and honor for each other’s highest well-being!”
Moving onto Native American women, the article revealed, “…women in strained and abusive relationships… inhibited a woman’s capacity to produce a coherent, meaningful narrative” (143). Specifically, while the Cheyenne women avoided describing details of the incident, they instead “used euphemisms and indirect references” of their rape (141). This is a great example of feeling embarrassed or tongue-tied into avoidance. When we ignore the truth of how we feel it is hard for us to touch home with ourselves and gain access to our values of what we like and what we never wish to experience again!
If you find yourself in emotional avoidance embrace a narrative that is clear of your focus and desire, which may lead you to emotionally charged territory that is totally valid and legitimate! Re-direct feelings of trauma into feelings of resurrection! For example, “I firmly voice what I do not like! I direct my complete disapproval of what does not serve me! I am proud to express my true desires and stand up for what I deserve!”
In this same article, Anglo (or Caucasian) women explicitly described their rape along with their emotional trauma. Nonetheless, women in this study “followed the narrative styles most familiar to them when telling their tales of rape survival” (i.e. that of their family, friends, or culture) (143). This is a great example of following the herd into victimization. Instead it empowers feelings of resentment, disempowerment, alienation, and at times vindictiveness. Instead, we can affirm, “I am grateful for this opportunity to let go, forgive, and soar into my highest spiritual expression!”
Constructing our own narratives can be viewed as an empowering way to transform trauma. We encourage all women who have been sexually violated to apply the powerful, transformative techniques of conscious-narrative-construction inspired by Tibetan refugees, in order to heal potential trauma.