Coping with a face covering as a survivor of sexual violence

Coping with a face covering as a survivor of sexual violence

Government guidance changes on the 24th July, making it mandatory to wear a mask or face covering in shops and supermarkets. We know that for some survivors this poses a real concern, with reports that the wearing of masks/face coverings have triggered flashbacks and panic symptoms.

We recognise that wearing a face covering may cause trauma for some survivors and want to remind anyone who is struggling that we are here to support and listen to you. You can find details of all our support services here.

We have also compiled a list of ways in which some survivors have found it possible to wear face coverings. If you have any other suggestions please contact us so we can add them.

Things which may help:

  • Trialling different fabrics and materials, for example some people may find cottons, silks, or T-shirt style materials more bearable
  • Wearing a face covering which isn’t a mask, for example a scarf, snood, or bandanna
  • Practising wearing a face covering at home before going outside and slowly increasing the time you have it on for so you get used to how it feels
  • Putting calming scents on the face covering such as lavender or mint
  • Using other grounding techniques such as tapping pulse points, opening and closing a peg, or focusing on things you can see, smell, and touch.
  • Using a visor of face shield rather than a mask (ideally the screen needs to come around towards the ear line)

A picture of a mask with the feminist fist on it

We recognise that face coverings may remind people of past events, so you may also find it helpful to remind yourself that you are in control, and you can step outside of a building and remove face covering at any point.

At OSARCC we also recognise for some survivors, wearing a mask simply isn’t possible, please remember, government guidance also states that you can be exempt from wearing a face covering “if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress”. You may find it useful to make people aware of this if you decide that you are not able to wear a mask or face covering and are questioned as a result.

If you are unable to wear a mask, it may be helpful to remember that 2 metre distances are considered safest. you may also wish to consider putting your hand in front of (but not on your mouth) whilst talking may be another helpful measure, especially if paired with regular hand gel that decreases their risk of spreading.

OSARCC is able to post out exemption badges to anyone who needs them. Please contact us if you would like us to send you one.

A green badge with a yellow mask with a sunflower on it and the words face mask exempt

We also know for some survivors seeing others in masks may also act as a trigger. You may find it helpful to read information on grounding techniques, to help you cope with these feelings.


(A huge thanks to everyone who has reached out to us to add suggestions on other measures, and ways to improve this article – please do contact us if you have any additional things we should add or amend).


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