This is a text version of our “Thinking About Healing” zine that can be read by a speech reader. If you want the printable PDF in its original graphic format, see https://www.antiviolenceproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Healing-Zine-online.compressed.pdf
this zine is thinking about…
The Anti-Violence Project would like to acknowledge the Communities and Nations in whose territories we work and live: the Lekwungen (Chekonein, Chilcowitch, Swengwhung, Kosampsom, Whyomilth, Teechamitsa, Kakyaakan, Songhees, Esquimalt) and W̱SÁNEĆ (SȾÁUTW/Tsawout, W̱JOȽEȽP/Tsartlip, BOḰEĆEN/Pauquachin, WSIḴEM/Tseycum) Peoples. We would also like to express gratitude to the other local Peoples and Nations in this region including the MALAXEt (Malahat), Scia’new (Beecher Bay), T’Sou‐ke (Sooke), Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht Peoples.
We recognize the inherent connections between colonialism and all forms of violence. Recognizing the violence of ongoing colonialism and engaging in anti-colonial actions is critical to our work as anti-violence advocates.
The Anti-Violence Project
We offer services to people of all genders who have been impacted by gender-based violence, either by directly experiencing it, through causing harm to someone, or supporting or knowing someone who has experienced it.
We promote an anti-oppressive approach to anti-violence work that seeks to recognize the interconnectedness of forms of violence and the different ways that gender-based violence manifests in society, based on various systemic and institutionalized forms of violence.
We strive to provide anti-oppressive and sex-positive services, advocacy and action on-campus and off, in partnership and collaboration, in order to address and resist gender-based and all forms of violence.
Understanding Sexualized Violence
Sexualized violence can be a traumatic violation of the body, mind, and spirit that can profoundly affect your health and emotional wellbeing.
Sexualized violence can happen to anyone. Nobody ever “asks for it” or deserves to be assaulted regardless of what they were wearing, who they were spending time with, how much they had to drink, and so on.
Everyone has the right to personal safety. If you were sexually assaulted, it is important that you know that it was NOT your fault.
There is no “type” of person who gets sexually assaulted. It happens to people of all genders, cultures, races, ages and sexual orientations.
The same is true of people who cause harm. A person who causes harm is not always a stranger. In fact, most often, a sexual assault is committed by someone the survivor knows.
Sexualized violence is about power and control. A person may use intimidation, physical force or manipulation to commit a sexual assault. And it’s still not your fault. It doesn’t matter if you fought back, or if you did nothing during an assault — you made the right decision for you, and you survived.
The Anti-Violence Project has created this booklet in order to provide survivors with useful tools and information to help in the healing process.
Reactions to Sexualized Violence
Sexualized violence is a personal and destructive crime, and its effects on you can be physical, emotional, behavioural and cognitive.
Listed below are some common reactions you may experience after sexualized violence, but it is important to remember that there is not one “normal” reaction to sexual assault.
They can be brief in duration or last a very long time. Your individual response will be different depending on your personal circumstances. These symptoms are listed under different categories, but it’s important to note that not all symptoms fall neatly under one category or another. For example, many physical symptoms are related to emotional stress, and many emotional reactions are related to psychological pain. Again, there is no right or wrong way to feel.
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling lost and/or abandoned
- Loss of self-esteem
- Increased smoking
- Increased alcohol/drug use
- Unusual behaviour
- Overly vigilant to the environment
- Excessive humor
- Emotional outburst
- Missing classes
- Changes in appearance
- Changes in usual activities
- Act like nothing has changed
- Loss of coordination
- Sleep disturbances
- Easily startled/Jumpy
- Increased arousal
- Decreased arousal
- Chest pains
- Rapid heart rate
- Stomach pain
- Muscle aches
- Difficulty breathing
- Appetite changes
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty with calculations
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Decreased attention span
- Racing thoughts
- Religious confusion
“Just as violations of safety are life-destroying, the means of establishing safety are life-enhancing“.
Safety & Safety Skills
“In order to begin the healing process, you need to feel and be safe. You cannot begin to heal from your wounds, psychological or physical, if you are still being wounded. The sense of safety is also internal. You need to feel safe with your thoughts, feelings and behaviours before you can begin to contemplate the trauma. This does not mean you won’t sometimes have troublesome thoughts or feelings, but rather that you feel you can manage them.” ~ Matasakis
Four Types of Safety
Until people are physically out of harm’s way, addressing traumatic events or responses is not a good idea. Often, becoming physically safe is the required first step to healing.
Many survivors have thoughts and beliefs that make it hard to feel safe in their own mind (“It’s my fault, I can’t handle this”). You may struggle with thoughts of suicide, flashbacks, or intrusive imagery. The voices of your abuser or other toxic relationships may also play in your head. Thoughts may feel out of control or seem unable to stop.
Emotional safety is the ability to feel one’s emotions and not become overwhelmed, terrorized or retraumatized by them. Many survivors will not know what this means or what this feels like. Even people who feel numb to their emotions are usually afraid to accept them as they fear being swept away by the force of those emotions.
The experience of trauma can leave people questioning their relationship to the Divine or to the Universe, or even their very sense of self or identity. Or perhaps a survivor has lost her belief in a higher power or in the goodness and trustworthiness of others, after having been betrayed and abused. Rebuilding one’s connection to something greater can restore one’s sense of spiritual safety.
Ways to Achieve Safety
- Build a support system and identify resources
- Create ground rules/boundaries
- Establish a protective ritual/ceremony
- Develop coping strategies
- Practice self-compassion
- Practice self-care
- Develop a safe place (real or imagined)
- Deep breathing & grounding
- Practice containment
Grounding is a set of simple strategies to detach from emotional pain (e.g., substance cravings, self-harm impulses, anger, sadness). It works by focusing on the here and now, rather than the past or future. You can also think of it as centering.
Being conscious of current experience allows you to make decisions about what you need to do for yourself. There are many techniques that can help bring you back to the present moment; ways to orient you to the now and the fact that you are safe in the now.
Being grounded means being aware of your body, your feelings, your thoughts and feelings connected to them. It is about being grounded in current reality rather than being overwhelmed with powerful emotions. When you are in touch with your physical and emotional experience you are better able to keep yourself safe.
Most survivors have used some grounding techniques to get through difficult times, you might not even be aware of them. it is important to become aware of what has worked for you.
For example, one simple device is to keep something with you that will remind you to come back to the safety of the present moment and your current experience, such as a grounding object. Carrying a stone in your pocket or purse is useful for many people.
Grounding can be done any time, any place, anywhere, and no one has to know. Focus on the present, not the past or future.
Keep your eyes open, scan the room and turn the light on to stay in touch with the present. Stay neutral, avoid judgments of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. For example, instead of “The walls are blue; I don’t like blue because it reminds me of depression”, simply say, “The walls are blue” and move on.
If you like, you can rate your mood before and after grounding, to test whether it worked. Before grounding, rate your level of emotional pain (0-10, where 10 means extreme pain). Then, re-rate it afterward. Has it gone down?
Use grounding when you are faced with a trigger, enraged, dissociating, having a substance craving, or whenever your emotional pain goes above 6 (on a 0-10 scale).
It may not be useful to talk about feelings or journal/write at this time, you may want to stay away from distressing feelings, or not get in touch with them. Processing feelings can happen later. Grounding puts healthy distance between you and these feelings.
Ways of Grounding
Three major ways of grounding are described below: mental, physical and soothing. “Mental” means focusing your mind; “physical” means focusing your senses (e.g., touch, hearing); and “soothing” means talking to yourself in a very kind way. You may find that one type works better for you, or all types may be helpful.
Mental grounding: Describe your environment in detail, using all your senses. Play a “categories” game with yourself. Try to think of “types of dogs”, “jazz musicians”, “countries that begin with A”, “cars”, “TV shows”, or “cities”. Describe an everyday activity in detail, such as a meal that you cook. Read something, saying each word to yourself. Or read each letter backward so that you focus on the letters and not the meaning of words. Count to 10 or say the alphabet very slowly.
Physical grounding: Run cool or warm water over your hands. Grab tightly onto your chair as hard as you can. Touch various objects around you. Notice textures, colours, materials, weight, temperature. Compare objects you touch: is one colder? Lighter? Dig your heels into the floor. Notice the tension centred in your heels as you do this. Remind yourself that you are connected to the ground. Carry a grounding object in your pocket – a small object like a rock, clay, a ring, a piece of cloth or yarn that you can touch whenever you feel triggered. Notice your body: the weight of your body in the chair; wiggling your toes in your socks; the feel of your back against the chair. You are connected to the world. Stretch. Extend your fingers, arms, or legs as far as you can; roll your head around. Clench and release your fists. Walk slowly, noticing each footstep, saying “left” or “right” with each step. Eat something, describing the flavours in detail. Focus on your breathing, noticing each inhale and exhale. Repeat a pleasant word to yourself on each inhale (e.g., a favourite colour, or a soothing word such as “safe” or “easy”). Say a coping statement: “I can handle this, this feeling will pass.” Plan a safe treat for yourself, such as a piece of chocolate, a nice dinner, or a warm bath. Think of things you are looking forward to in the next week.
Soothing grounding: Say kind statements, as if you were talking to a small child. For example, “You are a good person going through a hard time. You’ll get through this.” Think of favourites. Think of your favourite colour, animal, season, food, time of day, TV show. Picture people you care about and look at photographs of them. Remember the words to an inspiring song, quotation, or poem that makes you feel better.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Here and Now Exercise
This exercise can be helpful if you are having problems staying present or are feeling anxious.
What you do is:
Name 5 things that you see.
Name 5 things that you hear.
Name 5 things that you sense/touch, e.g., feet in shoes, heart beating, temperature.
Name 4 things that you see.
Name 4 things that you hear.
Name 4 things that you sense/touch, e.g., feet in shoes, heart beating, temperature.
Name 3 things that you see.
Name 3 things that you hear.
Name 3 things that you sense/touch, e.g., feet in shoes, heart beating, temperature.
Name 2 things that you see.
Name 2 things that you hear.
Name 2 things that you sense/touch, e.g., feet in shoes, heart beating, temperature.
Name 1 thing that you see.
Name 1 thing that you hear.
Name 1 thing that you sense/touch, e.g., feet in shoes, heart beating, temperature.
Each time you identify something that you see, hear or feel, you say: “I see…, I see…, I see…, I see…, I see…, I hear…, I hear…”, etc.
The same object, sound, or feeling can be used twice, or more, in a row. It can be repeated as often as you need to.
The exercise can be done in silence or out loud. You can use it in busy or quiet places.
This exercise works best if you are sitting down or standing still. (You should not do it while you are driving.)
This rhythmic repetition can be relaxing and calming.
More Grounding Ideas
- Call someone (e.g., crisis line, friend)
- Pet an animal
- Imagine growing roots
- Breathing exercises
- Rubbing feet on floor
- Being barefoot in the grass
- Smelling flowers or essential oils
- Orienting self to here and now – what day is it? What time is it? Who am I? Where am I?
Practice the Abdominal Breathing or Calming Breath exercise (below) for five minutes every day for at least two weeks. If possible, find a regular time each day to do this so that your breathing exercise becomes a habit.
With practice you can learn in a short period of time to “damp down” the physiological reactions underlying anxiety and panic. By extending your practice of either breathing exercise to a month or longer, you will begin to retrain yourself to breathe from your abdomen. the more you can shift the centre of your breathing from your chest to your abdomen, the more consistently you will feel relaxed on an ongoing basis.
Once you feel you’ve gained some mastery in the use of either technique, apply it when you feel stressed, anxious, or when you experience the onset of panic symptoms.
Abdominal Breathing Exercise:
1) Note the level of tension you’re feeling. Place one hand on your abdomen right beneath your rib cage.
2) Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into the “bottom” of your lungs. In other words, send the air as low down as you can. If you’re breathing from your abdomen, your hand should actually rise. Your chest should only move slightly while your abdomen expands.
3) When you’ve taken in a full breath pause for a moment, then exhale through your nose or mouth depending on your preference. Be sure to exhale fully. As you exhale, allow your whole body to just let go. You might visualize your arms and legs going loose and limp like a rag doll.
4) Do ten slow, full, abdominal breaths. Try to keep your breathing smooth and regular, without gulping in a big breath or letting your breath out all at once. It will help to slow down your breathing if you very slowly count to four on the inhale and then very slowly count to four on the exhale. Remember to pause briefly at the end of each inhalation.
Count from ten down to one, counting backwards one number with each exhalation. the process should go like this:
Slow inhale…Pause…Slow exhale…Count “ten”
Slow inhale…Pause…Slow exhale…Count “nine”
Slow inhale…Pause…Slow exhale…Count “eight”
5) Extend the exercise if you wish by doing two or three sets of abdominal breaths, remembering to count backwards from ten to one for each set.
6) Five full minutes of abdominal breathing will have a pronounced effect in reducing anxiety or early symptoms of panic.
Some people prefer to count from one to ten instead. Feel free to do this if it suits you.
Calming Breath Exercise:
1) Breathing from your abdomen, inhale through your nose slowly to a count of five.
2) Pause and hold your breath to a count of five.
3) Exhale slowly, through your nose or mouth, to a count of five (or more if it takes longer).
4) When you’ve exhaled completely, take two breaths in your normal rhythm, then repeat steps 1 through 3 in the cycle above.
5) Keep up the exercise for at least three to five minutes. This should involve going through at least ten cycles of in five, hold five. Allow these variations in your counting to occur if they do, and just continue with the exercise for up to five minutes, remembering to take two normal breaths between each cycle. If you start to feel lightheaded while practicing this exercise, stop for thirty seconds and then start again.
As you continue the exercise, you may notice that you can count higher when you exhale than when you inhale.
6) Throughout the exercise, keep your breathing smooth and regular, without gulping in breaths or breathing out suddenly.
7) Option: Each time you exhale, you may wish to say “relax”, “calm”, “let go”, or any other relaxing word or phrase, silently to yourself. Allow your whole body to let go as you do this. If you keep this up each time you practice, eventually just saying your relaxing word by itself will bring on a mild state of relaxation.
Learning to care for yourself is a lifelong journey. Your needs will change over time, and you will get better at it with practice.
There are many different aspects of yourself to take care of: your body, your emotional and mental wellbeing, your community, your financial life, your spiritual life, your family and relationships, your mission or meaning in life, your career, your sexuality, and your healing.
Eat, Drink, Sleep, and Be Merry
Eating well can be a challenge for many survivors. Aim for two to three good meals a day including plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein.
Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day will help your body flush out toxins that are released in the process of deep emotional work.
Sleep regularly, seven to ten hours a night.
And include pleasure in your life. What makes you smile or laugh? What brings that sense of warmth or comfort to your body? Perhaps you enjoy petting your cat, dancing, feeling the warmth of the sun, taking a luxurious hot bath…Do something pleasurable at least once per week. Notice your enjoyment.
Let Your Body Move
Movement, including walking, biking, aerobic workouts, dancing, or running, can have a profound effect on your physical and emotional health. Movement oxygenates your body and increases your circulation. This helps in the process of healing and in relaxing.
Whatever movement you choose, practice being “in” your body while you do it. Use this as a time to feel your breath and body sensations, rather than a time for checking out. This will assist you in being more embodied during all your activities, especially sex.
Breathing seems obvious, but is not. Drop your breath lower in your body so that your diaphragm and chest move when you breathe. Notice when you are holding your breath, or breathing shallowly, and breathe deeply again.
Treat Yourself with Dignity
How do you talk to yourself? Do you handle yourself with care and respect? Imagine how you would speak to a young child or a friend who is feeling afraid. You would not yell at her or be harsh. Rather, you would be comforting, offering support and guidance. How you treat yourself internally is as important as what you do on the outside.
Give Yourself Lots of Acknowledgment
Actively acknowledge yourself for your steps in healing. Notice all the risks you are taking, and give yourself support and kudos.
Make Time for Solitude
Solitude is also important to selfcare. Make time for yourself weekly. You can use the time to write in a journal, sit quietly, do artwork, meditate, or whatever else serves your process.
Incorporate Spirituality in Your Life
Many people also incorporate a spiritual practice or meditation into their lives. A spiritual practice can offer sustenance and a larger perspective to rest within. Meditation can be an excellent way to touch base with yourself, develop discipline, and learn to notice your own emotional processes.
It is also a good way to learn to notice what is happening in your body, and to feel centered and at peace with yourself.
81 Presents to Give Yourself
- Walk instead of ride
- Search out a long lost friend
- Light a candle
- Frame a picture
- Fly a paper airplane
- Try a new food
- Jump into a pile of leaves
- Sign up for a class
- Hug someone
- Walk in the rain
- Waste a little time
- Return something you’ve borrowed
- Turn off the TV and talk
- Take a bubble bath
- Bake bread
- Send a card to someone for no reason
- Laugh at yourself
- Walk barefoot
- Encourage a young person
- Allow yourself to make a mistake
- Go to a fair
- Rearrange a room
- Contact someone you’ve been thinking about
- Surprise a child
- List 10 things you do well
- Sing in the shower
- Pay a compliment
- Curl up by a fire with some cocoa
- Organize some small corner of your life
- Draw a picture (you CAN draw!)
- Smell a flower
- Clean out your wallet
- Tell a joke
- Talk to a pet
- Go for a swim
- Follow an impulse
- Volunteer some time to a good cause
- Give your dog a bone
- Let someone do you a favour
- Make a surprise gift
- Enjoy silence
- Take yourself to lunch
- Go to the library
- Tell someone you love them
- Do something you’ve always wanted to
- Learn something new
- Take an early morning walk
- Look at old photos
- Visit a lonely person
- Give yourself a present
- Write a poem
- Have breakfast in bed
- Take a different road to get home
- Build a sandcastle
- Start a new project
- Reread your favourite book
- Watch the sunset
- Get up before anyone else
- Lie on the grass
- Hide a love note where a loved one will find it
- Give yourself a compliment
- Read a poem aloud
- Be thankful
- Do something hard to do
- Let someone care about you
- Break a bad habit, if just for today
- Look at the stars
- Use a new word
- Walk to the nearest park
- Help a stranger
- Take a risk
- Take a rainy day nap
- Give away something you don’t like
- Buy a ticket to a special event
- Pop popcorn
- Practice courage in one small way
- Go wading
- Kiss someone
These are only some ideas, add your own.
On Campus Resources
University of Victoria, Student Union Building Room B027 (basement level)
UVic Counseling Services
Campus Services Building (by the Bookstore)
UVic Campus Security
Office located in Main Bus Loop CSEC
Security Services: 250-721-7599
Crisis & Emergency Line: 250-721-6683
Multifaith Services Centre
Campus Services Building, Room 151
Equity & Human Rights
Sedgewick Building, Room C123
Director: Cindy Player, 250-721-7007
Human Rights Advisor: Moussa Magassa, 250-472-4114
On Campus Academic Support Resources
If you have been sexually assaulted, and are finding that this has affected your ability to study or perform academically, you may be able to request an academic concession or deferral. The university requires that your counsellor or doctor provide a letter to support your request.
Office of the Administrative Registrar
UVic Counseling Services
University of Victoria Health Services
Jack Petersen Health Centre, 3800 Finnerty Road
Student Union Building, Room B205
Victoria Sexual Assault Centre (VSAC)
3060 Cedar Hill Road #201, Victoria, BC V8T 3J5
Vancouver Island Crisis Line
24 hour telephone: 1-888-494-3888
6:00-10:00 PM Monday-Friday texting number: 250-800-3806
Victoria Women’s Transition House
Community Office: #100, 3060 Cedar Hill Road, Victoria, BC V8T 3J5
Men’s Trauma Centre
203-1420 Quadra Street, Victoria, BC
This zine was written by a magical and unknown volunteer and put together by another, Y.E.