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Sexual assault survivors tackle trauma to stay COVID-safe, self-isolate and wear face masks


Sexual assault survivor Kelsie Stewart has worked hard to overcome the trauma of her attack, so it was a shock when a COVID test suddenly took her back to that horrifying experience.

Shortly after slipping her face mask on at a clinic, she was transported back to the attack.

“When I was assaulted my mouth was covered … the sensation of a mask being over my mouth is very similar to the assault,” she said.

It was the first time she had worn a face mask since the assault and it caused a “full-blown” panic attack.

Since then, the idea of wearing a mask has become terrifying but she is determined to fight against her instincts to keep herself and the community safe.

Psychologists and frontline workers have praised her for speaking out about an experience they said is shared by thousands of Australians who struggle to wear masks due to trauma.

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