Coping Skills

Coping skills are tools used to process and deal with feelings. People are usually aware of using them and see them as a healthy and positive part of the healing process. As you make progress in your healing process, you will learn new coping skills and find out what works best for you.

  • Talking to someone. One of the hardest parts of surviving a sexual assault is feeling alone and separate from everyone else. Speaking with supportive peers can help you work through your feelings and feel less alone. Having someone to relate to can help ease feelings of "craziness." If you try to talk to someone and they have an unsupportive attitude or blame you for the assault, remember that their reaction has to do with their own thoughts and feelings about rape; it has nothing to do with you.
  • Writing or drawing. A journal can be a great way to express feelings in a safe and private way. If you are afraid of what will happen if someone finds your journal, drawings can be an even more private way to express yourself. Some people tear up what they have written after they are finished.
  • Exercising. A sexual assault is a physical, as well as mental and spiritual violation. Exercising can help to work out some of the difficult feelings. It can also help you to feel more in control of your body.
  • Handling triggers. Flashbacks, panic attacks, and unwanted thoughts after a sexual assault can be terrifying. Below are some simple ways to try and deal with them in the moment:

Some examples of coping skills are:

Deep Breathing

1) Breathe in through your nose for a count of four.

2) Hold your breath for a count of four.

3) Breathe out through your mouth for a count of four.

4) Hold your breath out for a count of four.

5) Repeat until your heart slows to normal and the feeling of panic eases.

You may prefer to come up with a simple, calming phrase to repeat instead of counting.

A Safe Place

1) Get into a comfortable position and do the breathing exercise above.

2) Picture a place where you feel completely safe (it can be real or imaginary). Picture every detail about the place. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you smell? Are you alone? What are you doing? Spend some time imagining this place, so that you become familiar with it. You may want to write about or draw the safe place.

3) Come up with a cue that will help you to “visit” your safe place when you need to. The cue can be a word, tapping your hand, or anything that will help you avoid a panic attack. When you feel a panic attack or a flashback starting, use your cue to signal that it is time to picture your safe place.

4) Continue to imagine the safe place until the flashback or anxiety has passed.

5) Do another deep breathing exercise before going on with your day.


1) When you feel a flashback or panic attack coming on or you begin to have unwanted (intrusive) thoughts, say or think “stop”.

2) Grab onto something solid and notice how the object feels (the arms of a chair, the table, the bed post or something comforting like a book or photograph) and answer the following questions:

*Where am I?

*What is happening now?

*Repeat the answers at least twice. For example, I am in class. I am safe right now.

3) If you can, interrupt what you are doing. For example, if you are listening to music or watching television, turn it off or step away. If you are in a class or at work, draw/ scribble something calming. If there is a person nearby that makes you feel safe, try and be near that person.

4) Make a plan for what you will do next.

5) Tell yourself that you handled this situation well.

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