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Nurturing Self-Compassion: Coping When Sexual Assault News Triggers You as an Asian American Woman

Sexual assault cases, particularly high-profile cases, have unfortunately become a frequent occurrence in our society. These distressing stories can deeply impact survivors and individuals with personal connections to similar experiences. The continuous exposure to such news can be triggering and can evoke a range of emotions, memories, and reactions. It can feel impossible to navigate the news cycle when it seems like there is always another scandal. It can feel particularly painful as an Asian American woman, as we have a long history of experiencing fetishization and sexual violence in the U.S. In this blog, we will explore helpful coping strategies to navigate overwhelming feelings and take care of yourself whenever you are faced with trauma triggers.

Understanding Triggers and Their Impact

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Before discussing coping strategies, it is important to understand what triggers are and how they affect us. A trigger is an event, circumstance, or reminder that elicits a strong emotional or physical response linked to a past traumatic experience. Sexual assault cases and scandals in the news can act as triggers, bringing back memories, fear, anger, sadness, or a sense of vulnerability. Recognizing your triggers is an essential step towards developing effective coping mechanisms. For example, you may find yourself feeling triggered when hearing about a traumatic experience that shares similarities with yours. That could be the circumstances in which the case occurred, the people involved, or the ways others reacted to the allegations. 

Unique Experience as an Asian American Woman

As women of color, we have our own unique experiences informed by gender, race, cultural identity, and societal expectations. It is well-known that women of color are more likely to be the victims of violence than white women. In particular, Asian and Asian American women have a long history of being stereotyped, fetishized, and exotified. Throughout the 20th century, Asian women were often viewed as submissive war brides or as sexual objects. To this day, Asian women are more likely to be at risk of sexual violence by non-Asian men. For those of us who have experienced violence, directly or indirectly, headlines about sexual assault can act as painful triggers. These scandals can cause past traumas to resurface, and constantly hearing about such cases can evoke a heightened sense of vulnerability.

By acknowledging the profound impact of traumatic experiences and triggers, we can start to care for our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

The first step in coping with trauma triggers is acknowledging and validating your feelings. It is natural to experience a wide range of emotions, including anxiety, anger, fear, or sadness. And it is okay to have a reaction that is greater than you expect, whether or not you believe you should be ‘over it’ or that it is not ‘a big deal.’ Give yourself permission to feel all these emotions without judgment or self-criticism. Remind yourself that your reactions are valid, your experiences matter, and you deserve attention and care when you feel unsafe. It is normal to be affected by such distressing news, especially when it hits close to home. Take the time to process and express your feelings in a way that feels safe and comfortable for you.

Limit Media Exposure

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While we agree that it is essential to stay informed about current events, it is equally necessary to protect your mental and emotional well-being. Limiting your exposure to media coverage of sexual assault cases can be an effective coping strategy. Set boundaries for yourself by deciding how much news you can handle and create designated times for consuming media. Consider choosing trusted sources that provide factual information in a sensitive way and avoid sensationalized or graphic details. Give yourself permission to take breaks from news consumption and engage in activities that bring you calm and relaxation. Social media in particular may feel triggering, as you may be inundated with others talking about these cases. It may be important to raise awareness and education about current events and trends, but you can give yourself permission not to engage every time. 

Seek Support

During triggering times, seeking support from trusted individuals can be immensely helpful. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups who can provide a safe space for you to share your feelings. Connecting with others who have had similar experiences can foster a sense of validation, understanding, and community. Professional support from therapists or counselors experienced in trauma can also provide valuable guidance and assistance in processing and coping with triggering events. It can feel particularly helpful to connect with other Asian women, who may better understand the complicated intersection of gender, ethnicity, and sexual violence. Remember, you do not have to face these emotions alone, and reaching out for support is a sign of strength.

Embrace Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is a practice rooted in kindness, understanding, and acceptance towards ourselves. It involves treating ourselves with the same warmth and care we would extend to a loved one facing a similar situation. When confronted with triggering news, self-compassion becomes an invaluable tool to navigate the resulting emotions and protect our well-being.

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  • Set Boundaries: Protect your emotional well-being by setting boundaries around exposure to triggers. Allow yourself breaks from consuming news about sexual assault causes, or discussing such cases with others.
  • Practice Self-Kindness: Offer yourself words of comfort and reassurance. Engage in positive self-talk and challenge self-critical thoughts with compassionate statements. Treat yourself with gentleness and understanding during these challenging moments.
  • Engage in Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that bring you comfort and nourishment. This may include engaging in hobbies you enjoy, practicing mindfulness or meditation, or engaging in physical activities that help release tension and promote well-being.

As Asian American women, coping with triggering sexual assault cases in the news can be particularly challenging. By cultivating self-compassion, we can provide ourselves with the care, understanding, and support we need during these difficult times. While it can feel difficult to strike a balance between staying updated and caring for ourselves, it is absolutely necessary to give ourselves the permission to promote our own healing. Remember, you are deserving of compassion and tenderness, and by extending it to yourself, you can navigate these triggering moments with greater resilience.

Seek Asian American Therapy at Yellow Chair Collective in Los Angeles or New York

If you are seeking therapy specifically tailored to your needs, consider reaching out to the culturally sensitive therapists at Yellow Chair Collective. We understand that different parts of our identities can show up in different parts of our lives, and that it can make navigating relationships difficult. We understand that there may be unique cultural and contextual factors that may influence your experiences.

At our Los Angeles, CA, and New York City, NY-based therapy practice, we have many skilled, culturally sensitive therapists who can provide an empowering therapeutic experience. For your added convenience and simplicity, we offer online therapy for anyone in the state of California or New York. We know that dating as an Asian American in Western society can be challenging, and we want to support you on your journey. Follow the steps below to begin.

Other Services at Yellow Chair Collective

There are many options for treatment using online therapy in California and New York, it just depends on what you’re needing. And while we certainly service Asian American folks, we also work with individuals from other cultures, too. So, whether you’re needing support in overcoming anxiety, burnout, trauma, or PTSD, we can help. Likewise, we serve teens and couples in need of support, too. So when you start online therapy with us, you can bring your whole self, including past struggles, cultural impacts, and more.