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Below are some terms and definitions to help guide you, or on behalf of someone you know, through any point of the healing journey you are on.



What is Trauma?


Trauma is an overwhelming emotional response to a terrible event. Everyone reacts to trauma differently. What is traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for another person. We are all different so no trauma is bigger than the other. (try your best to resist the urge to compare yourself or your situation with anyone else’s.) 


How do I know?


Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Long term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal and typical of trauma-related events, some people have difficulty processing what has happened on their own. 


What should I do next?

The good news is you don’t have to heal alone. You can find support in your area by using the simple search box.



What is Abuse?


Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate relationship. Abuse includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of abuse can be going on at any one time. 


How do I know?


Abuse feels bad. Sometimes it’s direct, like someone insulting you, or hitting you, or preventing you from taking care of yourself, and sometimes it’s not. 

just don’t feel well. You may want to go to sleep, or go do something to take your mind off of it- like zone out watching tv, use some sort of mind-altering substance, or go meet up with someone so you don’t have to think about what happened, just happened, or is happening to you.  

When people ask you about it, you may get defensive- and that may just be because you’re not exactly sure what you feel, or you may be embarrassed about it. It just hurts a lot, and sometimes you just feel nothing inside. Those are usually indicators of something deeper happening, worth talking about. It could have happened a long time ago, or it could be happening right now. 

What should I do next?

First, if you are in immediate danger call 9-1-1. Create a safety plan with a trained professional. Next, realize you are not alone. Abuse is a very broad category and very nuanced. You can find more specific resources per each category below. 

What are my rights?

You have a lot of them. Here are a few. If you’re under 18, teachers, and counselors at school are required to report if they hear of a child being abused. Remember, they’re there to help you. If you’re over 18, you can report it to police if it’s physical, so you can receive justice. If it’s not physical, (stalking would be physical), you can still get help. 

Because there are so man types of abuse, Crisis Text Line counselors can direct you in the right direction for your unique situation:

Sexual Violence



What is Sexual Violence?


Sexual violence refers to sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given. The person responsible is usually someone known by the victim. The perpetrator can be but is not limited to, a friend, coworker, neighbor, or family member.

Before we get to definitions, let’s talk about consent. 

A lot of the legal jargon will see below has to do with consent. Consent sounds kind of confusing but actually by legal terminology, it’s really simple. You consent when you explicitly state that you want whatever sexual advance someone is doing. That means if you do not explicitly state that you want whatever said sexual interaction has happened, you may have been sexually violated.

Here’s a great video on it by Dr. Anna whom we heart. 

Click here for a video explaining more.


Sexual violence also includes the following


What is molestation?

Molestation is forced physical and usually sexual contact. This can include the touching of private parts, exposure of genitalia, the taking of pornographic pictures, and the involvement of sexual acts with molester and other children. Molestation does not presume sexual intercourse and is usually nonviolent, but it is a form of sexual abuse.

What is childhood sexual abuse?

Child abuse occurs when an adult or an adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring to engage in sexual activities, indecent exposure of the body to a child, physical sexual contact with a child, and child pornography. It is key to understand that the perpetrator seeks victims younger in age because of their vulnerability.

What is domestic violence (or intimate partner violence)?

The inflicting of physical, or emotional injury by one family, household member, or intimate partner. Usually, this behavior is a habitual pattern.

What is street harassment?

The uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person.

What is sexual assault? 

Nonconsensual sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person who is incapable and unwilling to giving consent. Force and aggression are usually involved; however, sexual intercourse may not be involved.

What is rape?

Rape is a nonconsensual penetration, no matter how slight, of

the vagina or anus with any type of body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim and the violation of the victim's dignity and autonomy.

How do I know?

Sexual assault, incest, and rape can happen to anyone, anytime, regardless of gender, race, economics, location, what you’re wearing, what you’re not wearing, what you said, what you didn’t say if you fought back if you didn’t if you were too drunk to remember what happened, or if you were asleep. It can happen at the hands of someone you don’t know, but more likely than not, it happens by someone you do know - your uncle, your brother, your dad, your mom, your cousin, teacher, that guy who’s your neighbor, that lady who is your mom’s friend, your boss, coworker, your boyfriend, your closest friend. Anyone. Anytime. It happens every 2 minutes to someone in America. As defined legally, if you’ve ever felt sexually violated verbally or physically, you may be a survivor (and not victim) of sexual assault, rape, incest, or even emotional incest.  

What should I do next?

Make sure you are safe. If you feel you are in immediate danger call 911. Find professional support to help you heal. 



What is Trafficking?


Trafficking is the transportation of persons across borders under coercion, manipulation, or violence for the use of profit. It is the sale of human beings. There are many types of trafficking including labor, domestic, sex, and organ trafficking. 


How do I know?


Trafficking is a term that’s tossed around a lot in the media, and it should be. It affects millions and millions of people. You may have heard other synonyms for it like, "slavery" or "sex slavery", or other versions like labor trafficking, domestic trafficking forced prostitution. First, let’s get down to the basics. Trafficking covers

a huge umbrella including three main categories; labor trafficking, sex trafficking, and organ trafficking. It’s basically when someone is forced to do work, or to exchange a service (sex, housework,

nail salons, factory work, you name it) without proper compensation- or being told that they owe a debt. Someone

who has been trafficked has usually been told one thing and then forced to do something else. Someone is considered trafficked when for example, their boyfriend, or someone forces them to have sex with other people, or when they’re forced to work without getting any money or receive threats against their safety and or family’s safety.


What should I do next?

If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. If you suspect you or a loved one may be a victim of trafficking, report the situation to the national trafficking hotline right now at 1-888-373-7888. There are people on the line 24/7 who can get you immediate help. If you can’t call them, you can text them here “befree” (233733). Also, seek medical attention as soon as possible and confide in a safe party to plan a safe escape.

Self-harm and Suicide Ideation


and Suicide


What is self-harm, and suicide ideation?


Self-injury, also called self-harm, is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It's typically not meant as a suicide attempt. Rather, self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger, and frustration.


How do I know?


While self-injury may bring a momentary sense of calm and a release of tension, it's usually followed by guilt and shame and the return of painful emotions. And with self-injury comes the possibility of  serious and even fatal self-aggressive actions. Because self-injury is often done impulsively, it can be considered an impulse-control behavior problem. Self-injury may be linked to a variety of mental disorders, like depression, eating disorders, and borderline personality disorder.


What should I do next?

If you've injured yourself severely or believe your injury may be life-threatening, call 911 or your local emergency services provider. If you're injuring yourself, even in a minor way, or if you have thoughts of harming yourself, reach out for help. Any form of self-injury is a sign of bigger issues that need to be addressed. Talk to someone you trust — such as a friend, loved one, health care provider, religious leader, or a school official — who can help you take the first steps to treatment. While you may feel ashamed and embarrassed about your behavior, you can find supportive, caring, and nonjudgmental help. 



What is Addiction?


Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems. Several effective treatments are available, and people can recover from addiction and lead normal, productive lives.


How do I know?


If you replace feelings with things. That can include actual things like shopping, food, drugs, alcohol, sex, fantasy (i.e. Tv, video games, social media, yup that too!) If someone has to numb out regularly or use something to check out, or as an emotional crutch you may have become over-reliant on escaping life.


What should I do next?

The first step on the road to recovery is recognition of the problem. The recovery process can be hindered when a person denies having a problem and lacks understanding of substance misuse and addiction. The intervention of concerned friends and family often prompts treatment. The good news is, there are effective treatments for addiction. You can break the cycle. You can live a full, awesome life without need anything to help you ‘handle it’. You can also have awesome relationships and shed destructive habits and toxic people out of your life. You can be sober! It’s true. Here are a few people who have gone first to show you how. And here’s where you can get help.



What is Depression?


Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods but for some of us, this feeling can become overwhelming.


How do I know?


We’ve often heard depression feels heavy and black. It’s like a heaviness hangs in the air which makes little tasks just impossible to accomplish. It can be a very isolating experience because you don’t want to see anyway. You just want to zone out and unplug. Or maybe you want to do the opposite, get up and take back your life, but you just… can’t. Sometimes it’s chemical, and sometimes it’s just because life happens.  


What should I do next?

There's no one proven way that people recover from depression, and it's different for everyone. However, there is a range of effective treatments and health professionals who can help you on the road to recovery. 

There are also plenty of things you can do for yourself to recover and stay well. The important thing is finding the right treatment and the right health professional for your needs.




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