Haunted by Memories of Sexual Assault? How Therapy Can Help Decrease Shame and Transform Your Emotions

Sadly, countless people in this country have been sexually assaulted. And for a long time, they were taught that they should not speak up about their trauma.

Over the past few years, a long-overdue conversation about the prevalence of sexual assault has opened up. The #MeToo movement encouraged people to share their experiences with sexual assault, making it clear that no one is alone in this.

With the recent sentencing of Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo movement is in the headlines again. And with the media covering the 2020 election, there are numerous conversations about assault and abuse of power.

In some ways, people who have been dealing with the trauma of sexual assault may find this empowering—justice is finally being served. But at the same time, having sexual assault so prominently spotlighted in the media can re-trigger memories and emotions that people haven’t processed yet. Plus, feelings of shame and self-blame might also be dredged up.

If this reminds you of your own situation, you may want to seek help from a qualified therapist.

Here’s why therapy can make it possible to safely work through your trauma, say goodbye to your shame, and come out the other side stronger. 

Exploring the Roots of Your Trauma

Sometimes, even the thought of facing a traumatic event months or even years after it happened is too much to bear. This is very normal—trying to process trauma all on your own can be daunting. We all need someone to lean on, so you are not alone.

But there are times when you need more than a heart-to-heart with a friend. A therapist has the professional skills needed to walk alongside you as you explore the roots of your trauma. When you have someone guiding you every step of the way, who is willing to work at your pace without pushing you, you will feel supported throughout the experience.

Creating a New Meaning

After a traumatic experience like a sexual assault, you might tell yourself a certain story about what happened and why. Human beings are natural storytellers. We concoct these narratives to make sense of the world around us and the events that occur in our own lives.

However, what if the story you’ve been telling yourself about your assault does not serve you? What if you could write a different story for yourself? On your own, it might be difficult to figure out what that could look like. But with the right therapist, you can eventually walk out of a session feeling empowered by a narrative that is very different than the one you originally told yourself.

Understanding You Are More Than This Experience

Many of us feel that a single traumatic event defines our lives. It’s true that even those who have processed their trauma in a healthy way may feel that different parts of their life will always be viewed as “before” or “after” the traumatic experience. And that’s perfectly okay.

Nevertheless, regular sessions with a therapist can help you understand that while this single experience may have changed you, it certainly does not have to define you. You will always be so much more than your trauma.

Saying Goodbye to Shame

Why do so many people feel that they can’t share their stories of assault? The answer is: shame. Our culture teaches us that if someone is assaulted, they should be ashamed of what happened. Something must be wrong with them or they must be permanently damaged.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. You are not broken or damaged. A compassionate therapist can help you see that in order to move past this shame, you must provide it with space, share it with a warm presence, and learn that you are more than this chapter of your life.


Are you struggling with the aftermath of a sexual assault? You do not have to process this experience on your own. Instead, you may want to consider working with a trusted therapist who can help guide you through this experience.

Reach out to us today if you want to know more about our approach to trauma work.

Angela Izmirian, Ph.D.

Author: Angela Izmirian, Ph.D.

Angela is a licensed psychologist at Portland Psychotherapy. Her specialties include trauma/abuse, relationship issues, couples therapy, ethnic minority issues, body image, loss/grief, depression, anxiety, transgender assessments, and sexual orientation & gender identity exploration.
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Portland Psychotherapy is a clinic, research & training center with a unique business model that funds scientific research. This results in a team of therapists who are exceptionally well-trained and knowledgeable about their areas of specialty.