Survivor of Assault
Survivor of Assault
I was assaulted when I was 19, a sophomore in college, 37 years ago.
How long did it take you to ask for help/support?
I asked for help when my marriage failed, 20 years later. A part of the failure of my marriage was assault related; I felt hunted by my husband. It tortured both of us. Even then, asking for help took every ounce of courage I could muster.
As you hear/read about the Me Too movement, what thoughts or feelings do you have?
As I hear about the Me Too movement, I recognize myself in many of the stories. My belly tightens, I hunch my shoulders, I feel sick sometimes, and most times I feel sadness. I bristle when someone is accused of reporting sexual misconduct in order to gain money or attention. My guess is that very few women want this kind of notoriety. Some people ask, “Why didn’t she fight back?” The “Me Too” movement may be the first time she felt safe enough to fight back, if only to tell the story long after the fact.
Have your thoughts surrounding sexual assault changed over the years?
Yes. Today I know that blaming the victim is not okay. By extension I know that blaming myself is not right. I also have learned that many times the assailant is someone we know.
You have worked privately & in a group setting on the issues surrounding sexual assault. Will you please share the biggest challenges you faced in both settings? Were there any rewards?
In the private, one-on-one sessions, I learned how to talk about the assault. I had hidden it for so many years, I needed to scrutinize what had happened–to unwrap the dusty cocoon with which I had stifled it. My counselor helped me to figure out how the assault affected my daily life. She taught me to think of things in a different way, giving me tools to understand my emotions, my numbness, my detachment. The most challenging thing about group therapy was going there for the first time. I was so afraid! But while we told our different stories, we found that we had the same challenges. We were all trying to function well in life despite how an assailant had interrupted us, made us feel powerless, violated us. The group was an excellent sounding board. We recognized each other’s struggles as our own, exchanging strategies for lifting ourselves up out of shame, fear, rage and self-blame. We spoke to each other about relationships, how we would push people away. We identified triggers for each other. We didn’t feel alone anymore. We sometimes shared humor in the face of sadness. We began to heal.
What do you want the general public to know?
I want the public to know that sexual assault survivors look like everyone else. Chances are you know more than one. Also, I want the public to know that few people (none that I know of) want notoriety for being assaulted. So believe the women that come forth to tell their stories. What they do is brave.
What would you like to share with other sexual assault survivors?
You aren’t alone. Muster the courage to get help. You owe it to yourself.
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