I published an anonymous story of the night I was raped on the Lala last year. Sharing my story was cathartic and empowering and uplifting in ways that I can’t even explain with words. I’m grateful for the silent support that I’ve received over the past year and a half.
I’ve learned a lot. I learned a lot about human limits — and how far we will ourselves to keep pushing on. If it’s okay with you, I want to share a few more stories and lessons that I’ve learned over the past year and a half.
It’s my story to tell, or not tell
When you become a survivor of sexual assault, you join a community of survivors. And within this community are activists. Strong men and women who are vocal about their experiences, and share their stories. My story is one of anonymity.
April is sexual assault awareness month. As the month started, I saw my friends on Facebook bravely share their stories. I saw women at my own university tell their stories on a public platform with so much strength. I watched through my screen as people supported one another. I too have shared my story, but I felt like a coward, hiding behind the luxury of anonymity. I felt like a useless soldier in an army of warriors who are fighting the battle for me.
Belonging in a community of survivors means that sometimes your role is to simply survive. If you’re reading this, I hope you know that your story is not less valuable because you don’t post a Facebook status.
Share your story on your own time, or, don’t at all. We’re all soldiers.
Sex is complicated. Know your limits.
Months after I was raped, I had a few anxiety attacks while my boyfriend and I were having sex. It took me a little while to realize that my trigger was when the room was dark. My boyfriend is great, he’s one of the few people who know and who understands when I need time. But that doesn’t mean that I feel any less embarrassed that I pushed him off, or when I started crying in the middle of sex. I’m lucky to have someone who is supportive of the choices I make with my body. I realize now that some survivors struggle with this. Listen to your body. There’s a lot of power in simply knowing how far you’re willing to go, and stopping at that line. Cross it in your own time.
Healing is different for everybody.
I was urged by a few close friends to go to therapy, and it was horrible. Therapy is a great outlet and way of healing for some people, but it just wasn’t for me. The hardest part wasn’t even sitting in sessions talking aimlessly about my anxiety. It was the thought that I was so broken that I needed a professional person to pick up my pieces. The people who urged me to seek help inadvertently made me feel like I was at a worse place than I actually was.
Recovering from rape is not beyond our own reaches of healing. If you need to seek help, seek it. But don’t let others convince you that you are not capable of processing the aftermaths of sexual assault.
Small steps can be big steps.
It’s been a year and a half of breaking down, and rebuilding, breaking down, and rebuilding again. Some days are worse than others, and sometimes those days turn into weeks. Sometimes I lie in the darkness, and I can feel the weight of everything – the weight of him, the weight of what he left me, and the weight of the carrying on. But no matter how dark the room gets, and no matter how heavy the world feels, there’s no question that you and I are capable of finding light in the smallest things.
My small thing? I somehow find the will to get out of bed, put on an outfit I love, and walk out the door. It’s bravery to step out into a world that can do so much to harm you. It’s bravery to be vulnerable, even after your vulnerability was exploited.
For the survivors reading this: I’m so proud of you. We’re so proud of you. You are brave.