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"One year ago, I locked my door and went to sleep; like we all do on any given night. Unfortunately, this night was like no other before and was one I will never be able to forget. I woke up that night to a co-worker who had undressed himself, crawled into my bed and raped me. "
Kathleen, rape survivor

Rape is a crime, talking about it isn't. SPEAK.

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Inability to Sleep

"I haven't had a good night's sleep in 32 years"

Kathleen Hamm

Raped at knife point in June of 1973, Kathleen Hamm finally obtained justice 32-years later when her attacker was found guilty thanks to DNA evidence.

        Insomnia is a common problem for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. Sleeping disturbance may decrease or disappear with time, or persist for weeks, months, and even years. Because your body needs time to rest and recharge, insomnia often results in daytime fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, depression and more. Insomnia can manifest under different forms, like:

  • Inability or difficulty falling asleep.
  • Waking up frequently in the middle of the night, and having difficulties going back to sleep.
  • Waking up too early in the morning, feeling tired, irritable, and not rested.

"Rape is a crime against memory and sleep; it's afterimage imprints itself like an irreversible negative from the camera obscura of dreams."
Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides

        It is not uncommon for people who have survived a traumatic event to lie awake for hours at night before falling asleep. This is can be caused by fear, stress, anxiety, feelings of guilt, and inability to let go of emotions like anger, hurt, or shame.

If insomnia is in fact caused by traumatic life events, counseling can provide support, problem-solving skills, and the opportunity to release pain and fears in a safe and learning environment. Medications should be a last resort and can have serious side effects, even if purchased over-the-counter.

Some Suggestion to cope with sleeping disturbance:

  • Go to bed only when you are feeling tired and ready to sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine from at least 8 hours before bedtime. Don't drink tea, coffee, or eat chocolate. Avoid Nicotine also, which is a stimulant and may prevent you from falling asleep.
  • Set up a bedtime routine, and try to relax before going to sleep by taking a warm bath, drinking warm milk, or listening to calm and soothing music.
  • Make your sleeping area as comfortable and as tidy as possible.
  • Exercise daily, but not in the last 4 hours before going to bed.
  • Don't watch the clock.
  • Remember that your mind can influence your body. Try emptying your mind from all negative thinking. Use creative visualization and relaxation techniques to ease your tension. Imagine a safe place, that may or may not actually exist, in which you feel emotional and physically secure. Choose an image that makes you feel safe and calm

© 2007 After Silence - This article may not be reprinted or reproduced without express permission.


This site is offered for support of other rape and sexual abuse survivors. It is not meant to be a substitute for any kind of professional help.
If you are in a crisis situation we urge to contact your local rape crisis center or health care professional.

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