For Rebecca Frock, a post traumatic stress disorder specialist, healing after sexual assault is possible, but there is no specific way to go about it.
For more than 20 years Frock worked in outpatient and inpatient settings as a clinical counselor. She also worked as the director of the University of New Mexico Psychiatric Center for eight years and provides Christ-centered counseling, according to her website.
Her talk, “Real Hope, Real Transformation, Real Victory,” at the Student Union Building Luminaria room Thursday afternoon was part of the Real Sex Week, a week of events with topics ranging from birth control to human trafficking to feminism.
Pro-life organization Students for Life began hosting the Real Sex Week in 2016.
John Valdiviez, the organization’s vice president, said the idea behind the Real Sex Week was to counter the annual Sex Week, which he said has inappropriate messages about abortion. He said the Real Sex Week is also “more serious” than Sex Week and offers information that is more important for students.
Students for Life President Emily McGowan said the Real Sex Week aims to provide students with alternatives to the information provided during Sex Week.
Frock was popular at the last Real Sex Week hosted by Students for Life — she not only serves as a local resource, but she also has an important message, McGowan said.
During her talk, Frock discussed the impact and acceptance of sexual assault, choices sexual assault survivors can make and how to respond to someone speaking out about sexual assault.
Throughout the presentation, she asked the audience questions and later opened the floor for a Q&A.
When it comes to healing after sexual assault, Frock said it is also important to understand the mental and physical components that come with experiencing sexual assault.
When humans sense danger, they have three options: fight, flight or freeze, she said. However, it is easy for someone who experienced sexual assault to start thinking about what they could have done differently.
“When you start that process of ‘should’ve, could've, would’ve’...that’s toxic,” because adding that logic could stunt the healing process with negative thoughts, Frock said.
Clients should be in control of their therapy session. Although there are various methods of moving forward, it is critical that people who have been sexually assaulted are not told what to do, because they may feel they are being controlled. Feeling controlled may make them resistant to therapy, because the assault was also a moment of losing control, Frock said.
“Verbal darts” accusing the person speaking about sexual assault of being in the wrong should be avoided, she said.
She gave an example of a client who illustrated her feelings by drawing a demon lurching over a person.
If Frock spoke to the client in an accusatory way, she “could have magnified the demon,” she said.
It is important to avoid commenting or giving advice to someone who opens up about sexual assault, because that person may never tell anyone again just because of what someone else said, Frock said.
“We can not forget the power of words...Keep in mind, you speak life over people or speak death over people,” she said.
When it comes to healing, people who have experienced sexual assault should: approach a fact, have healthy thoughts and be willing to change prior beliefs, she said. There is no right or wrong way to do it, but the key to healing is approaching the facts.
Believing good things happen to good people and that sexual assault could not happen are two toxic thoughts, because when they are applied to someone who has experienced sexual assault, they can diminish self-worth, Frock said.
It is important for someone who has experienced sexual assault to change their mind by “giving yourself permission to be human,” she said.
UNM student Jacelyn Sweeney attended the event. Although she said she was familiar with most of the information Frock discussed, these are topics that need to be heard.
For Sweeney, one of the best takeaways from the talk is Frock’s point about negative thoughts.
Being impacted by negative thoughts is something that can happen to people in a variety of situations, not just sexual assault, Sweeney said.
Frock said 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males are sexually assaulted in their life in New Mexico.
Svetlana Mylnikova, a UNM student who also attended the event, said the figures Frock presented are alarming.
Valdiviez said he hopes people walk away from Frock’s presentation, knowing that healing is possible and resources are available — someone affected by sexual assault does not need to keep it to themselves.
“You cannot carry this alone...I’m all for empowerment, but we were meant for connecting,” Frock said, encouraging those affected by sexual assault to speak about it with people they trust. “Tell someone, you are never alone.”
“No matter what happens in life, no other person gets to define your worth,” Frock said.
Elizabeth Sanchez is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Beth_A_Sanchez.
Tasawar Shah is the news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @tashah_80.