We at Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic would like to recognize all of the survivors of sexual assault in our programs during April, the official, nationally-designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The purpose of SAAM is to create an open dialogue about the ongoing problem of sexual violence, encouraging individuals and communities to join the conversation. As many can infer, there is a strong connection between addiction and sexual trauma, with many survivors, including those who may have experienced childhood sexual abuse, turning to drugs or alcohol following these traumatic experiences. For example, according to the National Center for PTSD, women with substance use disorders are more likely to have survived a sexual assault, with as many as 60% of women (and 20% of men) who have undergone substance abuse treatment reporting having experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse as a child.
Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic remains mindful of this strong link between sexual trauma and addiction and continues to implement programs to address both issues concurrently in treatment. Many of our residential treatment programs, including Demeter House (our women’s facility), utilize evidence-based approaches, including Lisa Najavits’s Seeking Safety Program, to help program participants understand how trauma and addiction interact. This is accomplished in a structured, gender-specific setting, where the three stages of recovery are explained in detail. These stages include: understanding the meaning of safety, mourning the losses caused by both sexual trauma and addiction, and reconnecting (or finding the meaning behind the pain). At Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic, we hope all of you who have experienced sexual assault and addiction are able to reach the last stage: Finding meaning.