The mind can recover. Can the body?

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The mind can recover. Can the body?

Therapists using new approach to heal victims of sexual assualt
Therapist Kim Johancen-Walt, left, said she makes sure that the healing process makes sense to a victim and doesn’t cause renewed anguish. Johancen-Walt and other local therapists are using counseling techniques similar to those used on war veterans, centering on healing the body as much as the mind.
An unidentified woman who has been a victim of rape three times meets every week with Fort Lewis College counselor Kim Johancen-Walt to discuss the memories and emotions of her trauma.

The mind can recover. Can the body?

Therapist Kim Johancen-Walt, left, said she makes sure that the healing process makes sense to a victim and doesn’t cause renewed anguish. Johancen-Walt and other local therapists are using counseling techniques similar to those used on war veterans, centering on healing the body as much as the mind.
An unidentified woman who has been a victim of rape three times meets every week with Fort Lewis College counselor Kim Johancen-Walt to discuss the memories and emotions of her trauma.
Rape victim battles feelings of helplessness

A Fort Lewis College student who, through therapy, is unsnarling the trauma of being raped three times is speaking publicly about the ordeal.
In poetry slams, the woman, who asked not to be identified, delivers this message: The guilty party in sexual assaults is the perpetrator, not the victim.
It took her five years, during which time she abused drugs and alcohol, to reach that understanding.
The sexual assaults occurred in the Pacific Northwest where she worked. She came to Durango early this year to attend FLC where she has three semesters left to receive a degree in sociology.
She was raped the first time at age 20 by a coworker who insisted on walking her home from a party.
“I was a virgin,” she said. “Since I didn’t have any prior sexual experience, I wondered if it really happened. I didn’t report the assault to the police.
“The few friends and co-workers I told about the attack didn’t believe me because he was well-known and popular,” she said.
The woman said she felt dead inside.
“Rape is one of the few crimes that kills victims but lets them live,” she said.
Her therapist, Kim Johancen-Walt, an FLC counselor and therapist in private practice, said the woman’s reaction is typical of victims of sexual assault.
The woman in her poetry wrote: “I tried to tell you, but the words I was screaming were being hurled at ears that could not hear.”
Over five years, the woman descended into drug and alcohol abuse and was raped twice more and suffered an attempted assault by the first attacker. In time, the woman stopped her substance abuse, but it has taken much longer to open up.
“I’m talking about my experience because it has happened and could happen to many women, making them think they’re alone,” she said. “Each experience is different, but each is valid.”
At FLC, she copes by meeting weekly or biweekly with Johancen-Walt.
Johancen-Walt said in the woman’s therapy sessions, she forges forward little by little in confronting painful memories.
“I think she has tremendous resilience,” Johancen-Walt said.
The woman plans to get a master’s degree and aim for a career in violence prevention.
daler@durango herald.com

Where help is available

Among therapists who treat sexual-assault trauma (the list is not all-encompassing) are:
Anna Freeman, Durango Counseling and Touch Therapy, 903-0465 or www. durangocounseling.com.
Emily Newcomer, 903-7517, www. emilynewcomer.com.
Kim Johancen-Walt, 946-8737.
Lillian Ramey, Riversage Family Counseling, 749-4491, lillian@ riversagecounseling.com.
Rick Stockwell, Sunrise Physical Therapy, 749-5308, www.SunrisePhysicalTherapy.com.
Ruby Jo Walker, Affiliated Psychological Resources, 259-5711.

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