Survivor Story: Elena’s Path to Healing through Counseling at SAFE

Written by SAFE

Elena* is a 20-year-old Latina immigrant from Mexico who sought counseling services at SAFE following sexual violence. Elena shared that she experienced extensive sexual violence beginning in adolescence and continuing across her lifespan, including two incidents of sex trafficking in adolescence, childhood sexual abuse, and sexual assault in adulthood. Elena shared that she also experienced strangulation and stalking along with her experiences of sexual violence. In counseling, she hoped to learn about the impact of trauma, expand her sense of self-esteem and self-love, and grow in her ability to set boundaries with others.

Sessions began with Elena and counselor creating safety and rapport in the therapeutic space. She shared that due to ongoing turbulence in her family of origin with whom she still lived, she had never before experienced a space that was all her own where she could freely express herself without fearing judgment or shaming from others. Elena and her counselor discussed topics such as fluctuations in her trauma symptoms, emotion regulation, and trust. As counseling progressed and Elena grew more comfortable, sessions delved into themes such as her experiences of being sexualized and objectified from a young age, dissociative symptoms, sexuality, and traumatic memory. The counselor utilized Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Safe/Calm Place, and containment techniques to help Elena feel safe during sessions.

Elena shared that counseling offered a container for her to explore and move through more painful emotions and experiences, and that she always felt better by the end of each session. Over time, she reported that she felt more able to set boundaries with others to maintain her personal safety and wellbeing. Finally, in beginning a new job, exploring options for a college education, and in requesting a letter of support from me for her T-Visa immigration proceedings, Elena made strides in pursuing a fulfilling and violence-free future.

*Names were changed to protect identity