Learning to Say No After Trauma

January 8, 2024 Sammi Caramela

Learning to say no after trauma can feel like stepping on someone's toes without stopping to apologize. In other words, it can feel harsh, cruel, rude, and downright awful to set a boundary or put your needs first. Through my experience enduring childhood sexual assault, I learned that my body was not my own. This idea made saying no after trauma very difficult.

While I (thankfully) haven't run into many individuals who have abused or taken advantage of this vulnerability of mine, I still — 24 years later — recognize my hesitancy to stand up for myself in certain scenarios. Even in my healthy relationship, there are times when my partner reminds me it's okay to say no in any and all contexts. It's okay — and necessary — to prioritize your own needs and safety. 

The Importance of Learning to Say No After Trauma

Learning to say no after enduring a trauma, especially abuse of any sort, is a crucial part of healing and protecting yourself. (Re)victimization, or the recurrence of the same trauma on a particular individual, is a common outcome of childhood abuse.1 For example, because I was sexually assaulted at the age of four, I grew up with low self-esteem and struggled to stand up for myself in similar instances. Oftentimes, when put into a high-stress situation, I dissociate. Instead of thinking clearly and rationally, I get this fuzzy feeling in my brain and go into what feels like a zombie-like trance. Sufferers of assault may be able to learn to address these wounds and say no in such situations with therapy.

How I'm Learning to Say No After Trauma

I've been on my healing journey for most of my life, but it wasn't until four years ago that I fully admitted to and confronted my assault head-on. Since then, I've been working on setting boundaries in various aspects of my life, from my career to my relationships. Each time I listen to myself and prioritize my own needs, I feel both guilt and pride. I'm choosing to focus on the latter.

Even though it's uncomfortable, learning to say no can be empowering. Additionally, it can help you find the right support system. If someone doesn't respect your boundaries, you quickly discover they aren't for you.

By continuing to honor myself and my own needs, I am building the strength to stand my ground and have my own back. Consistency is key, and the more I ask myself, "What do you need right now?" the more I learn about and respect myself — both of which have been integral parts of my growth. 


  1. Marie, S. (n.d.). Abuse Survivors Can Be Revictimized — Here’s What You Should Know. Healthline.

APA Reference
Caramela, S. (2024, January 8). Learning to Say No After Trauma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela is a freelance writer, fiction author, poet, and mental health advocate who uses her writing to help others feel less alone. Find her on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and her blog.

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