Sexual violence in our media and its impact

Whether it’s Prince Andrew, a football player or campaigns for the safety of women, the recent continuous onslaught in our news and social media regarding sexual violence towards women can feel exhausting, scary, demoralising and relentless.

The subject even seeps into our favourite soaps, programmes and films which can easily catch you unawares.

Being triggered can range from being annoyed momentarily to re-traumatised, with your whole day/week/month impacted. But whatever your response to this seemingly constant bombardment is, your emotions are valid and it’s a good idea to take note of them. They offer information that can help process stuck memories, leading ultimately to better mental health.

 So if the continual media coverage is causing you distress, here are some ideas and strategies that may help:

  • If you feel panicked or very anxious – use grounding techniques. These can include breathing exercises or simply using your senses to ground you in the here and now.  One idea is to name something in the room that you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Find something that fits with you.
  • If you feel more in control – be curious. Ask yourself what is it that is triggering you? Try to own the feeling and not push it away.
  • Connect – try talking it through with someone you trust. Connecting with your friends/family/helpline/counsellor can help with feeling that you are not alone, and can lead to some insight.
  • Try and be proactive. Taking action when feeling anxious or stressed can help reduce feelings of helplessness.
  • Set boundaries: Avoid the news! There is good research that suggests that watching, reading or listening to news bulletins has a negative impact on our mental health and emotional wellbeing. The vast majority of news stories that are broadcasted are bad, with the occasional good news story tagged on at the end. So take control and turn off notifications for news and update alerts.
  • Limit or stop exposure to social media. If you have an iPhone, go to settings/screen time – you can set limits for apps, or downtime where you schedule time away from your screen. On Android phones, Digital Wellbeing tools give you a daily view of how often you check your phone and how frequently you use different apps. You can then set limits with daily app timers, and unplug at night with features like Bedtime mode.
  • Check the blurb. Before viewing something on TV read what the programme/film is going to cover. Gaining control and choice can feel key in managing the impact.
  • Be Mindful: Give yourself space and remind yourself how you’ve dealt with stressful emotions previously. Get out in nature; go for a “mindful walk” – notice the birds, trees, colours, wind etc. Any kind of mindful activity can be helpful – get absorbed in the here and now.
  • Exercise: Move your body. Movement can help to release anxiety and exercise can release endorphins which can lift your mood. Even just going for a brisk walk will help and can also help get you away from a screen (double win!)
  • Write: Consider a gratitude log/diary – where you write three things daily that you feel grateful for. Reading and reminding yourself of the positive things in your life can help to balance the negative. Or use a journal – writing down your thoughts can help to get them out of your head. It can help to reframe and gain some clarity.
  • If those things don’t feel possible, an easier instant coping mechanism is just taking a step back and distracting with something that brings you joy, or you can get absorbed in. Read an absorbing book, listen to music or try something crafty like cross-stitch, knitting or crochet.
  • Best of all use compassion towards yourself – do something that’s kind, that you would do for a friend in the same situation. Look after you.Sometimes it feels difficult to know what to do, and it doesn’t matter what you choose, but a good starting point is to make a list of all the things you enjoy doing, and then do one of them.

We hope this is useful to read, and maybe it will go some way towards helping you feel that you are not alone. Please let us know how media coverage is impacting you, and if you have any other ideas and ways of coping that we can share.