“There’s a secret I’ve been keeping for a long time. I’ve kept it to myself for fear that I will become defined by what happened to me in the eyes of others. I’ve feared that people will say that it’s not a big deal. That I need to just get over it. That I’m just sharing my story for attention. Well, it is a big deal and it’s okay not to be over it. And you know what? I do want attention — not for me but for the issue at hand. I want people to stop and think about the society we live in. Because what happened to me is not acceptable. I also choose to do this because I feel it’s right to hide such a big part of myself from those I love. After all, I have nothing to be ashamed of.
You’ve heard the statistic that approximately one in four women (and one in six men) have survived sexual assault.
Well, I am the one in four.
I’ve been sexually assaulted numerous times by acquaintances, friends, people who claimed to love and respect me – and meant it – but hurt me anyway.
It’s amazing how a few moments of disregard for another person’s safety and well-being can turn into a lifetime of struggle. I live with the effects of their actions every single day.
I struggle with symptoms of PTSD, which stick around despite my best efforts. I struggle with knowing that most of my perpetrators don’t understand that what they did was wrong, and that I might not be the last person they hurt. I struggle with knowing that I will never “go back to the old me again.” That version of myself is gone. Being sexually assaulted is like having someone close to you pass away. The pain never fully goes away. You just find a new normal and learn to live with that hole in your life. I will never be the same. And that’s something I’m still trying to accept.
However, being a survivor isn’t the end for me. It doesn’t mean I have to live the rest of my life suffering. I will never let my past get the best of me. I will never let it steal my joy.
I may be scarred, but I am not broken.
Being a survivor of sexual assault has brought out strength and resilience I never knew I had. I’m constantly learning of ways to improve my mental health and heal from what’s happened. It also inspired me to do whatever I can to prevent this from happening to other people. The less people who understand my struggle, the better. At my previous college, I organized many events with the goal of raising awareness, preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors. It was encouraging to see a campus culture develop where sexual assault was not condoned and survivors were supported. We still have a long way to go, both as a school and as a society, but I am glad that I’ve been able to do my part.
If you are a survivor, I stand with you. Please send me a message if you need anything.
[Resources about consent]
National, 24 hour sexual assault hotline: 1-800-656-4673″
Thank you for reading this post. You can find my backstory here.