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Deliberate self-harm, or self-injury, is when a person inflicts physical harm on himself or herself, usually in secret. Some victims of sexual assault may use self-harm to cope with the difficult or painful feelings, but it is only a temporary relief, not a healthy way to deal with the trauma of sexual assault. Self-harm can cause permanent damage to the body, as well as additional psychological problems that hinder the healing process, such as guilt, depression, low self-esteem or self-hatred, along with a tendency toward isolation.1
Note: Deliberate self-harm is not necessarily inflicted with suicidal intent, and engaging in self-harm does not necessarily mean that someone wants to die.
Those who inflict harm on themselves may believe it “helps” them cope with their experiences and their emotions. For sexual assault victims, self injury may:1
Some common methods of self-harm include:1
Friends and family of sexual assault victims may be among the first to recognize the signs of self-injury. It may be helpful for a survivor to share their experiences and concerns with a qualified service provider who can help him or her find a healthier, positive alternative to alleviate the pain from sexual assault, such as a counselor or psychologist.1
Following are alternatives to self-harm that may help the survivor until he or she is able to meet with a professional:1
It is important to eat well, exercise and be kind to oneself. While not a solution in itself, doing all these things contributes to increased mood stability, and a general better sense of well being that will provide a greater sense of happiness on the inside and outside.1
If you or someone you know is contemplating self-harm, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE or visit the Online Hotline at online.rainn.org.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call 911 immediately. If there’s no one in your life that you feel comfortable talking to about your suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK.
This product was supported by grant number 2009-D1-BX-KO23 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Sections on this page have been adapted from: Rainn
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