Researchers have found a dramatic link between the occurrence of sexual abuse and substance abuse. According to alcoholrehab.com, “sexual abuse victims are three times more likely to suffer depression, six times more likely to suffer PTSD, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs than those who have not been sexually abused.”
They go on to say that one out of every six women and one in 33 men in America have been the victim of sexual assault or rape in their lifetime
Treatment centers are beginning to recognize the need for integrated treatment techniques for victims undergoing substance abuse recovery. Since there’s such a high prevalence of sexual abuse among addicts, integrated treatment offers a fuller recovery for sexual abuse victims.
Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one common form of treatment. In CBT, individuals are offered psychoeducation, therapy instructing and empowering them to deal with their condition in an optimal way. Stress management tools are also helpful. Individuals can be taught to change their situations or their reactions and how to maintain appropriate personal boundaries.
The regulation of emotions can be a challenge for a person who has been sexually abused. In CBT, clients learn what emotions are socially tolerable and they learn how to be flexible enough to permit some spontaneity. Survivors are also taught how to delay emotional reactions as necessary
One effective aspect of CBT is for the person to do a “trauma narrative.” In addition to telling their story by the spoken word or writing it down, they can also use drawing, painting or other art forms to communicate the trauma. The narrative can then be shared with a safe person, like a trained therapist or substance abuse counselor. The hope is that the survivor will be able to let go of some of the trauma. Healing can then take place.
Another facet of CBT is behavior management training. Clients are encouraged to stay calm in an emotionally charged situation, manage their own responses, learn what limits are appropriate, handle challenging questions and learn how to prevent physical confrontations with others.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), survivors are also encouraged to do what they can to heal themselves. Good sleep and nutrition, exercise, and regular routines like starting and ending the day in a peaceful way are a good place to start for people from this background.
Those in recovery are also urged to write down leisure activities they find enjoyable and engage in those activities regularly. Clients are also encouraged to use journaling and inspirational reading to further grow in their recovery. Finally, having a supportive group of friends and family will help an individual recover emotionally from this kind of trauma.
Integrated treatment for those suffering from substance abuse addiction and sexual abuse greatly increases the chance that this person will remain sober for the long haul. They can also experience greater joy and healing than if they were treated for substance abuse alone.