DISCLAIMER: This post has adult content and may have triggering language.
I know I’m not alone in saying this: Every day seems like an assault on my body, my rights and my femininity. New info is released daily about another woman coming forward against her violator and every day people find excuses for the violator. “He was drunk,” “she was asking for it,” “it was just that one time.” It seems like there is more time spent defending the character of a man who is accused of sexual assault then there is protecting and defending the words and story of a woman who is asking to be heard.
My story is not a secret. If you know me, you most likely know that I have a history of sexual abuse. If you don’t it’s because until about 3 years ago, I never really felt comfortable talking about it openly. For fear that I would be judged, from experience of losing friends for telling them and for my own shame that has since been healed. I was driving to work this morning and felt a call to share. Not for attention, not for sympathy, for empowerment. Because if me sharing my story inspires ONE person to share their own story, to feel less alone or to help them heal, then it is worth it.
When I was 3, I was raped. It was not a one time thing and it was by someone I knew. I was terrified to tell anyone, but when my mom ask me, I told her. My story is a little different because I was heard and believed. I had parents who immediately put me in therapy, took me to doctors, talked to me daily to ask me how I was feeling. Does it make what happened to me any better? No, but it did help me to heal. What I want to make perfectly clear is that when you are sexually violated, it is not something that you just “get over.” It takes A LIFETIME of continued work. Triggers and PTSD come often and sometimes out of nowhere and you will have no idea why. You will constantly question yourself because we live in a country that constantly questions women when we tell our story. You see, when the outside world does not reflect what you KNOW inside yourself, it’s called “gaslighting.” What is happening in this country is a collective gaslighting. Women are coming forward with their stories and instead of believing them, we question them, tell them they are wrong of that there is no way THAT person could have done that. This not only makes us second guess what happened to us, but it also makes us second guess our entire reality and let me tell you, that is a real mind fuck. What’s worse about all this? When women attack other women for coming out about their violation.
Because I was given a voice and heard, I was able to start my healing process from a young age. Does healing from sexual violation come naturally? No. Do I still have things come up when I could have sworn I was done dealing with it? Yes, regularly. Healing from any trauma takes hard work. I like to explain it like an onion: peeling back each layer one by one and exposing a deeper level of healing. I had all the usual symptoms and behaviors or a sexual abuse survivor. I thought it was my fault, I thought I was broken and unloveable, I disassociated from my body, I was angry, sad, mad confused. These were very complicated emotions for a 4 year old to feel, but I was feeling them and I had to learn how to deal and move through them.
What did healing look like for me? It looked like talk therapy, art therapy, long conversations with my mom. It looked like yoga, meditation, screaming, crying, yelling, confronting my violator, telling them I hate them. It looked like forgiving my violator. It looks like continuing to bring myself back into my body every day. It looks like no longer fearing my sexuality but creating a healthy and beautiful relationship with a body I once thought betrayed me. It looked like taking it slow when I was ready to have sex. It looked like picking partners who felt safe to me, Who didn’t scare me. It looked like journaling. It still looks like dealing with PTSD and triggers as they come, learning how to recognize them and practice an extreme form of self care to bring me back into myself and out of fear. It looks like being afraid to walk alone at night, being afraid when a man walks behind me on the street, being afraid when I am home alone at night. It looks like continuing to heal every day. Continuing to empower myself by knowing that I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. Someone who survived something really fucking horrible and who is thriving.
What has gotten easier? Talking about my story in a more open and empowered way. Knowing that what happened to me had nothing to do with me or my actions. Understanding that this is a life-long healing process. I take each day as it comes and I am beyond grateful for the support system I have and have built along the way.
I am aware that I have an exceptional story. That the majority of young girls, boys, men or women who are sexually assaulted or violated do not get treatment right away, they do not get listened to right away and sometimes they never even get a chance to utter the words. Sometimes this weighs on me. Why me? Why was I given avenues and opportunities to heal that so many others aren’t? But, overtime, what I realized is that this is MY story and nobody else’s. It doesn’t matter why I had this life and others don’t. Because questioning it and having guilt over it is not empowering myself or anyone else. I’ve learned to take those thoughts and emotions and turn them into compassion and support for other survivors. For all the survivors who couldn’t come forward, who couldn’t say the words, who are no longer with us. I am speaking for you and I am here for you. I feel your pain, I know your pain and I am sorry. I am sorry that not only did you survive one of the most horrific things that can happen to a person, but that you also went through it alone. I am here to tell you you’re not alone. That every day more and more women come forward with their stories and that we are STRONGER in numbers.
If you got this far, thank you for sticking with me. Thank you for listening. This was not easy to write but quite cathartic and healing in its process.
If you are or have been sexually assaulted and feel like you have no one to talk to, you do not have to go through this alone. Please reach out to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). It’s a place to start.