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Sexual harassment- self-care

Many a time, we all experience awkward stares, stalking, and inappropriate comments or unwanted touches. People showing predating behaviours making another person uncomfortable are present all around us - workplace, at home, gyms, parks.

Many people may or may not be able to seek help or needed support. Here are few therapeutic techniques from various schools of thought that might be helpful for one's sense of control, care, and well-being.

  1. Self-awareness technique - Anyone touching your body without consent might leave many of you distanced/disconnected from your physical self for some time. In this case, use the five senses to direct your attention to your awareness and presence. Try to point to five things you can see within your reach, four sounds you hear, three smells near you, two things you can touch, and one thing you can taste. If you are in an inaccessible setting, visualise these objects/people you want to see, sounds you want to hear, foods you recognise smells and taste of, and use your feet to become aware of the ground. This technique might help people experiencing nightmares and flashbacks - direct the attention using sense organs.

  2. Self-compassion & positive self-affirmations - Being a victim to unwanted touches, uncomfortable stares, and teasing might give birth to unhelpful and automatic negative thoughts. These thoughts might look like - "I'm dirty", "Did I do something to provoke them?" - causing self-blame and critical perception. These thoughts are a result of an unfortunate event. Identify these automatic thoughts and counter them with other rational explanations & questions - "What would I tell a friend who encountered such an event?", "I cannot take guilt or blame for their action." Mindfulness technique to direct attentional focus without any judgements in this situation might prove beneficial.

  3. Acknowledge & Express emotions - Awareness might open the path to acknowledgement. To admit that you feel angry, frustrated, disappointed, shocked, numb, frozen might lead to coping with these emotions. Crying, screaming, shouting, talking with someone, silently absorbing the incident are all ways to express oneself.

  4. Grieve & Mourn - Lack of consent might create feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. Invasion of privacy, body and personal space might be similar to a loss. Let yourself mourn and grieve this loss. Use journals, support networks, read from reliable sources, and find your healthy way to grieve.

  5. Re-defining boundaries - Chaos, confusion, and lack of trust might begin to happen within the self and around other people. It is okay to create healthy boundaries for oneself and other people - "I'm not comfortable standing so close. Can you please step back while we talk?" Trusting others might take time, so create your safe spaces.

  6. Communicate with your partner - Even if you aren't comfortable sharing the incident or event, acknowledge and share your desires/wants in the relationship related to sexual intimacy with your partner, even if you may not want to act on them. You may also ask their needs/wants/desires and create an understanding with each other.

  7. Routine - Be mindful of disturbed eating/sleeping and poor hygiene. A routine might reinforce steps towards integrating yourself into your day-to-day events.

Disclaimer - This is not a replacement for any emergencies, psychological services, psychotherapy or psychiatric support. These are brief self-help practices that might/might not be beneficial.

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