Since I’ve gone public with my story I’ve received an out pour of support. I’ve received e-mails from strong beautiful women sharing their story of survival. Thank you for being brave and making an effort to remove sexual assault from the shadows. By sharing your story with just one trusted person you have started your journey towards healing.
“silence has the bitter taste of shame.”
The second theme that has emerged from fellow survivors are statements like these: “You are so strong. I can’t even begin to explain my level of brokenness, no one will be able to understand. I can never get to where you are because I feel SO different. ” I thank them for being honest and sharing with me… but I also open up and begin to share where I was only a year ago. I tell them that they are not beyond hope because I am not beyond hope.
Healing in Hell: What many survivors already know but are afraid to share.
The first couple months I would oscillate between being numb to EXTREME Fear and Anxiety. Sexual assault doesn’t end with the crime. It permeates every aspect of your identity. I was so petrified that I would NOT leave my house unless going to school or church. My attacker decided that the best defense was a good offence and began stalking me. Its funny how his car would just randomly show up when he lived about an hour away. Even though I eventually reported this to the police; they did nothing. They practically laughed at me perpetuating my ever growing feeling of being unsafe. Upon just seeing his car I would begin shaking with fear and eventually throw up. The memories of the attack were triggered by his car or simply any car that remotely looked like his. Many more triggers would soon emerge…
I developed extreme insomnia. It would be days that I could not sleep. I would have night terrors. My mother would wake to me screaming or pacing the house. There was no way that she could even comfort me. I flinched every time she went to hug me. I witnessed the pain that “I was causing her.” and I felt hopeless. This pain was caused by my attacker because sexual assault does not stop with the victim. It hurts everyone that the victim loves or will ever love. By now ( a couple months later ) I had developed flashbacks. They were so real that I could literally feel every sensation as if it were happening in the present. These have never left me, even to this day. I would be triggered by something that reminded me of my attacker… anything and the cycle would begin again.
Almost right after the attack happened I entered into crisis counseling. I would see a counselor three times a week and attend a survivors group once a week. I vividly remember telling my counselor, “Counseling doesn’t work. How does talking about anything change it!?” I was angry and all I wanted was someone to give me the answers. Also, I’m glad that on occasion I can be wrong. It took me three attempts to EVEN enter the survivors group because of the fear and shame that I was carrying. I kept trying all the while thinking to myself, “I can’t do this. No one can understand this type of pain. I am too broken. I am beyond hope.” I kept fighting. I keep fighting. Even if all I accomplished for that day was to get out of bed. It was something.
I constantly battled suicidal thoughts. This is normal for trauma victims especially sexual assault victims. There were days that a second seemed more like an hour. I begged God to make the pain stop. In those moments, I put my shame aside and reached out for help. I’m glad that I did. I called my local hotline number so many times. They know my name. They know my story. They saved my life. If you are healing don’t be afraid to reach for help. It is there.
National Sexual Assault Hotline : 1800-656-Hope (4673)
Suicide prevention lifeline: 1800-273-talk (8255)
I share my story because I remember being the person believing she was beyond hope or healing. If you can resonate with any of this know that you are not alone. It takes great courage to heal. It will feel like taking 10 steps forward and 9 (1/2) steps back. I still struggle but I know that help is waiting for me. You are not beyond hope because I am not beyond hope. We travel this journey together. I hope that this encourages you to share your story, whatever that may be. We all struggle with something and the beauty of that is that we never have to carry the weight alone.
Be brave today.