So, if you've been following my posts, you know I've been through some stuff. I mean, most of us have, but I wish so bad that someone could have told me what I know now, a long time ago. It's time to break the silence on sexual assault because we need to face it and help people when we can. Survivors are not disgusting, hopeless creatures; we need support.
There are so many people out there who have experienced sexual assault and don't ever talk about it because of this awful stigma around being a survivor. It's because people see us as damaged goods. Like we are altered and no longer valuable beings. But for my fellow survivors, here's what I wish somebody told me:
1. You do NOT have to stay quiet.
You are a survivor. You are allowed to say that sentence out loud. You can shout it if you want. Don't let a single soul "hush" you because they think it's for the better . You are responsible for YOUR feelings only! You do not have to accommodate someone's else's feelings about your situation. It didn't happen to them, it happened to you.
2. You don't have to justify or prove your assault to your family or friends.
You do NOT owe a single soul an explanation unless YOU decide to tell someone about it. Unless that person is directly supporting you and/or an investigation about your assault, they are not entitled to hear the whole story and every detail. Because feeling like you have to describe it to everyone is NOT good for your mental health. Especially when you aren't ready to do so. And just because you don't want to explain it, doesn't mean you aren't allowed to say, "Im a survivor."
3. You HAVE to set boundaries for yourself with EVERYONE, sometimes, even your family.
There are going to be people who try to steal your thunder and make your assault about them because let's face it, sometimes there are other people affected, involved, or upset about what happened to you. YOU have draw the line in the sand. This is YOUR story. Not your mom, your dad, your sister, or your brother. It's YOURS. Take control. Own it. Don't let people walk around and disrespect your privacy by telling all their friends because their sad about what happened to you. If you don't want people to know all the details, stick up for yourself and hold people accountable to their actions if they don't respect you and your feelings.
4. You can forgive, but you don't have to forget.
You are absolutely allowed to find it in your heart to forgive the person. As a matter of fact, I recommend it, even when it'll be one of the hardest things for you to do. It's a great weight to take off your shoulders, but you don't have to pretend it never happened if you decide to forgive. You don't have to still be family with a family member that did this to you, regardless of what the rest of your family says. You don't have to be friends with that person anymore after you forgave them. Forgiving doesn't mean you act like none of it happened. When you let it go, you can let go of them too; And, that's just fine.
5. Don't expect your life to remain the same. Start a new and better one!
When something as serious as a sexual assault happens, you can't help but wish your world back to normal. I totally understand that and have been there. But, it's likely not going to go back because you are now a different person with different boundaries, different needs, and a different outlook on life, so start new. If you need to move, then move. If a better job would help in the slightest, then go after that opportunity you've been thinking about. Just don't be stagnant. Don't let yourself fall down trying to make everyone else happy. As a matter of fact, sometimes taking a break from people while you rebuild yourself can help, especially if they aren't understanding you or helping you. I took a long break from my family and old friends before I came back redesigned. Maybe that will work for you, maybe it won't, but it's always worth a try.
Not only do I wish someone would have let me know those things, I wish someone would have told my friends and families some things that really would have helped me too. Lets face it, it isn't easy when your loved one has been assaulted in any way and sometimes we act irrationally when we are overwhelmed and confused. Because how the heck did this happen!? Right? Well if you have run into it and you know someone who's been assaulted, here are some things to remember:
1. You have one job and one job only. Provide support.
If the survivor wants to call the police, help them call the police. If they want to stay quiet and they aren't ready, stand by their side and get them help. If they need medical attention, go with them if they let you. If they are scared to be alone, stay with them and protect them. You don't get to judge. You don't get to analyze. You don't get to ask a million questions (unless it deals with providing support). You don't get to make speculations. Support. That's it. Well, what if you can't? What if it's a tricky situation or you can't handle being involved? Direct the survivor to someone who can provide support. DO NOT leave them to figure it out on their own.
2. It is not your responsibility to figure out what happened and give out punishments.
Finding out "why" or "how" it happened is unnecessary for you. When you ask the survivor a million questions so you can satisfy your curiosity, you may just be hurting them. Some survivors aren't ready to talk about the details. Some survivors never will be, so don't press for details. Just make sure they get the support they need. It's one thing if they tell you on their own, it's inappropriate to berate someone for details.
Don't limit the survivor's support because you think you can resolve the situation. "I'm going to kill him/her." is not the answer. I know you are mad. I know it's terrifying to think about, but you know what would make the whole thing worse? Is if you got in trouble for making a bad judgement call instead of giving support. And, that attitude can bring stress to a survivor.
3. Just because you want it to be a secret, doesn't mean it HAS to be a secret.
You are not entitled to making a survivor feel like they can't talk about what happened to them. Even if it affects you, it didn't happen to you. You don't get to decide to brush it under the rug. You don't get to deny that it ever happened. The more of a secret you make it, the more damage you may bring on the survivor. And I hate to break it to you, but the survivor's life is more important than your denial.
4. NOTHING can justify a sexual assault.
It doesn't matter if they were married, used to be together, or whatever the circumstances are. If the survivor didn't want it to happen, then it's a CRIME. I'm sure the person who did it might have a beautiful family, a mom, a dad, a sister, some kids, but they committed a crime. It doesn't matter what their story or background is. A crime is a crime. What's wrong is wrong and they committed a crime. There is nothing in this world that could ever justify that.
5. You can seek professional help too.
Like I said, sometimes these events do affect other people. And it isn't easy to feel so much in a situation where you are so limited because the survivor is the one who calls the shots on mostly everything. If you lack understanding, are in denial, are struggling, are too weak and can't fathom the entire situation and it renders you unable to provide support, there is NOTHING wrong with seeking professional help to sort out your thoughts. Because it does affect other people sometimes. And it isn't easy. Just make sure you are turning to the right place, because if the survivor doesn't want people to know and you go vent to your friend, you run the chance of it getting around and starting a rumor, etc, etc. (No offense to your friend.) If you don't have access to a professional to help, you can actually speak to your physician about it and they will render you the advice you need.
Now, readers, don't get things twisted. You might look at this list and think its a REALLY BAD list. But these are the things I wish I knew as a survivor and the people around me knew so they could give me adequate support. I don't blame people for acting irrationally or not thinking things through in these situations, because it is NOT easy. If you have additional advice you'd like to add or would like to have a conversation about this, you can go to the forum or contact me privately via email, social media, or hit the contact tab! I can always add some tips or post on your behalf anonymously. Thank you for the read!
Stay tuned for more insight on how I managed to stay as resilient as possible over the years!