Soundbites: Coping with sexual assault

The confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court justice nominee accused of sexual assault have brought up a lot of negative emotions for people who have been sexually assaulted.

Emily Dworkin, senior fellow in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, specializes in mental health care for sexual assault survivors and suggests ways of coping.

She says it's different for everyone, but an important part of self-care is sitting with tough feelings without pushing them away or avoiding things that bring them up, so that they can run their natural course. Dworkin also says that there are effective treatments if the feelings are making it hard to function. First-line options for PTSD, she said, include prolonged exposure therapy or cognitive processing therapy.

“It’s okay to be upset about this,” Dworkin said of the hearings. She said, for many sexual assault survivors, the hearings trigger memories of their own assault and reasons why they may never have felt comfortable telling anyone.

Project BRITE: A brief restructuring intervention following traumatic exposure is a trial enrolling people within 10 weeks of being sexually assaulted. See Q&A with Dworkin on NPR, Oct. 4, 2018.

UW Medicine