In the age of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault have been put on notice. Much of the recent conversations around sexual harassment and assault have rightly focused on prevention and justice. Too often, this is where we let the stories end forgetting that even as we strive to end sexual assault and violence, we also have to support the victims and survivors left behind.
Some of the known consequences of sexual assault and violence include psychological, emotional, and physical symptoms. Women who report sexual assault or violence may also experience STDs which they attribute to their attacks, PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance use or abuse, and suicide attempts.1
But beyond in addition to these commonly-known effects, there are others less well-known. Lasting marks of a trauma color the way survivors and victims interact with and respond to their worlds, shaping their ability to feel safe at home, at work, at school. Imagining consciously changing your routine routes to school, work, or the gym; being extra vigilant and careful in consuming TV, movies, or other media; working to stringently maintain privacy in the age of social media; or having previously ordinary experiences, like just making it through airport security, become newly difficult.2
Yoga is commonly accepted as a means of improving mental and physical health. The goals of yoga—to create deep connections between mind, body, and spirit—can be particularly important for people recovering from emotional or physical trauma. Trauma-informed yoga health interventions have been found to help improve PTSD symptoms for those engaging in the practice, and has been acknowledge as an evidence-based practice for treating adults with emotional and psychological challenges.3 The goal is to harness the power of yoga breathing techniques, poses, and postures to allow people experiencing trauma to feel reconnected to their bodies. This is especially important for survivors of sexual assault.
Zabie Yamasaki helps survivors to move forward from the trauma of sexual violence and reconnect with themselves and their bodies through Trauma-Informed Yoga. Yamasaki graduated with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California, Irvine. Drawing on her own experiences of yoga’s impact on recovery as motivation, she returned to UC Irvine to create a therapeutic yoga program at UC Irvine. Zabie then came to UCLA to create and lead trauma-informed yoga through the Campus Assault Resources & Education (CARE) Program. Her yoga classes focus on teaching mindfulness techniques that allow survivors to connect with themselves and the present as they move through breathing and poses. The goal of this specific practice of yoga is to help people who may feel estranged from their bodies—or that their bodies were taken out of and beyond their control—find a sense of ownership of their bodies again. And, in the broader sense, it promotes holistic healing through empowerment and control that practitioners can bring to various aspects of their daily lives and interactions.4
CSW is delighted to welcome Zabie Yamasaki to Thinking Gender. Join us at 9:00 AM on Friday, March 1 for an interactive demonstration of trauma-informed yoga. All are welcome!
For conference registration info, visit: http://csw.ucla.edu/TG18
- McFarlane J, Malecha A, Watson K, et al. Intimate partner sexual assault against women: frequency, health consequences, and treatment outcomes. Obstetrics & Gynecology 2005;105:99-108; Rosellini AJ, Street AE, Ursano RJ, et al. Sexual assault victimization and mental health treatment, suicide attempts, and career outcomes among women in the US Army. Am J Public Health 2017;107:732-9; Carey KB, Norris AL, Durney SE, Shepardson RL, Carey MP. Mental Health Consequences of Sexual Assault among First-Year College Women. J Am Coll Health 2018:00-; Messman-Moore T, Ward RM, Zerubavel N, Chandley RB, Barton SN. Emotion dysregulation and drinking to cope as predictors and consequences of alcohol-involved sexual assault: Examination of short-term and long-term risk. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2015;30:601-21.
- RAINN Website. 2018. https://www.rainn.org.
- van der Kolk BA, Stone L, West J, et al. Original research yoga as an adjunctive treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry 2014;75:e559-e65; Trauma Sensitive Yoga. at https://nrepp.samhsa.gov/ProgramProfile.aspx?id=144#hide4.
- TRANSCENDING SEXUAL TRAUMA THROUGH YOGA as taught by zabie yamasaki. 2018, at http://www.zabieyamasaki.com/about/transcending-sexual-trauma-through-yoga/.