IF YOU’VE BEEN VICTIMIZED, TRIGGERED, OR WANT TO HELP
» Go with your gut about what feels wrong—and speak up.
If you can, tell studio or organization leaders and law enforcement immediately. If you don't feel comfortable doing so, or have questions about what may have just happened to you, there are anonymous, free resources that can help, such as the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN). “RAINN’s hotline (800656-HOPE) and online chat service ( rainn.org) are not just for people who are sure they have been victimized,” says Kati Lake, vice president of consulting services at RAINN. “They’re also for people who are unsure if they’ve experienced unwanted sexual contact, and for friends and families of those affected.” RAINN can also help you understand the laws that govern sexual abuse (they are different for each state). The organization maintains a comprehensive legal database at apps.rainn.org/policy. And, if it feels safe, speak up the moment something happens. “It may be scary, but it may also be an effective tactic to stop the offenders out there,” says David Lipsius. “If just one person stood up in class and said, ‘Please don’t touch me without asking permission,’ the system would change.”
» Give yourself permission to be triggered right now.
Hearing the news of others who’ve been through something similar to what you have can take you right back to your own trauma from previous abuse—and prompt you to relive it, says Elizabeth Jeglic, PhD. “I think a lot of victims have felt helpless in these situations in the past,” she says. “Now, many are reporting feeling guilt and shame that they didn’t come forward before, or they feel like they′re still not in a place where they can come forward with details of what happened to them.” No matter what you’re feeling, Jeglic says, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. And if you feel rocked by recent events to the point of feeling like it’s affecting your well-being, it may be a sign that you need professional help, such as talking to a therapist, says Annie Carpenter, MS. “If there’s a part of you that feels shut down or uncomfortable, you may have some repressed emotions,” she says. “If you don’t talk about those, they have a chance of causing more harm.”
» Support those who have been victims and want to talk.
While it may seem obvious to listen to someone’s story, Peg Shippert, MA, LPC, says that listening well is one of the most important things you can do—and it may be harder than you think. “A lot of people have a lot to say about this phenomenon going on right now, but a victim doesn’t need to hear your thoughts on the topic—what they need is to be heard and acknowledged,” she says. Try not to ask a lot of questions; instead, simply listen, and convey to them that you believe what they’re saying. “Almost every victim of sexual harassment or assault has had experiences where they tell someone what happened, and that person questions parts of her story,” adds Shippert. “That is so hurtful and potentially damaging.”
» Double down on go-to self-care tactics, and use your yoga.
Now is the time to do whatever you usually do to feel good. “For most of us, that often includes connecting with the network of people who’ve been a reliable, safe support system for you in the past. If it feels right, let them know this is a tough time for you,” says Shippert. If yoga has become something that re-opens old wounds, listen to that, too. “This might mean not going to your favorite class, finding another teacher, or trying private classes,” she says. “You might also ask a friend to go with you—someone you feel safe with.” Right now, we all need a practice that helps us feel empowered, says Carpenter. If not asana, maybe work with a deity, such as Durga, that helps you tap into your resilience. Or if letting your voice come out through chanting works, do that, she says. “Use your yoga to feel strong and clear; it’s from that place that you’ll be able to handle it all.”