First wanted to start this post by saying THANK YOU so much for the love and support I received after posting my story last week. The overwhelming love really opened my eyes and showed me I am not alone in this process. I couldn't believe how powerful my story was to impact others. We need to speak up and let our voices be heard. I finally can say I feel free to speak up and supported to be vulnerable with my feelings and hardships. After a week of reflecting and seeing many more stories arise, I realized that I no longer need to be ashamed or timid to speak my truth. It's apart of MY story and I must tell it. Besides, who else will. After I posted my story, I couldn't help but feel worried because I had no idea what the response was going to be or even if people would actually care to read. I'm constantly putting myself down because I don't get much support or views for my blog but what I realized in the process is that I need to be more personable. Now that you all know my inner battles, I am free to be an open book and express my pain through my writing.
This past week has been filled with sooo many emotions. First, happiness and liberty. Then, sadness and frustration. For many of you that do not know, I moved from my hometown last year and have been on my own ever since. In that time, I've made many stupid decisions with my finances and it's really taking a toll on me emotionally because I am just so self-sufficient. I'm fighting everyday for my survival and everything I've built in the past year. I know hard times are just temporary and I've been through worse, but when you only have yourself you just feel so helpless. Although I am struggling everyday, I know I will persevere and get past this stage in my life. Besides, I'm 23 years old and I'm bound to make all these mistakes. I'm just glad I'm making them now and learning from them to ensure they don't happen again in the future. But of course, it's easier said than done.
I wanted to go ahead and answer some questions I was sent in order to not only process my experiences in the past year but to also guide you through how I have been functioning.
How have you coped with being assulted?
It's definitely been a hard journey but I feel like everyday gets just a little bit easier. Of course, I have those days where I just break down but that's totally normal and I don't beat myself up about it. Sometimes you just have to embrace your sadness. Some things that I do to cope with it is writing, reading and meditating when I have the chance. I've been trying really hard to meditate and practice mindfulness. One of the apps I've been using is simple habit and 10%happier. I love how Simple Habit is free and 10% happier does offer a free trail, but what I really love about it is the guidance and the teachers on there. They really explain how to meditate and I feel the best when I am educated enough about a practice. The more I know the faster I can get better at it. Something else I do to cope with being assaulted is to remind myself that I am special and loved. I often have suicidal thoughts and feel like my life is worthless but it's important to acknowledge your strengths. Sometimes it's hard to find those strengths, but once you do find them, they will overcome any emotion. I also love to go to beach yoga. It helps me relax and let go of everything I'm holding on to. Find something you love and practice it as much as you can. Everyday is a journey.
Do you have coping mechanisms to deal with your PTSD at the moment?
Right now I like to just ask myself what it is that makes me feel stressed or afraid. I write them down so that I can visually see what is bothering me and then I analyze them. For example, My friend from high school who also lives here in FL invited me to the club this weekend with his homegirls and the first thought I had was "no, you can't go to a club, remember what happened the last time". Once that thought came through my head I immediately wanted to make up an excuse, but something in me said, "NO". You've restricted yourself enough and besides, you have always felt safe with this person. Once I asked myself what it was exactly that was worrying me, which was "I don't know if I will feel safe", I was able to answer the question right away because I did trust him. I believe trust is very important and because I trusted him I let go of my fears to not go and just have fun. I ended up going and had a BLAST! It's important to not over analyze everything. Life is hard enough, don't make it a math problem.
Why did you decide to share your story?
I did it to finally free myself. I felt stuck everyday. I wasn't living, I was just existing. I couldn't sleep at night. Every time I closed my eyes I would be scared to have flashbacks or nightmares. I did not believe I deserved better. Deep inside I knew I deserved better because I have strong values and beliefs but being sexually assaulted felt bigger than all of my accomplishments. I felt like I had lost it all. Sharing my story not only helped me move on and look forward to my future, but it also made me realize how powerful my voice is. I never give myself credit for things, and after sharing my story I was overwhelmed with the love and support I was always yearning for. I felt so alone for so long and I had finally felt full again. Sharing has definitely showed me that it doesn't matter how scary it is to be completely vulnerable sharing these terrible situations because that vulnerability is what destroys all fear.
How can people who have not experienced sexual assault be allies for those who have?
I think it's important to ask questions and be sensitive to that person. There are people who don't mind talking about it and there are others who prefer to be left alone or be given space. I know for me I definitely was open to speak to certain people about it but for everyone else I felt like I needed extra time because you share different energy with people and I think it's important to respect that energy. I think the main problem is that people do not choose to try to understand those who have gone through these hard situations and they often say "It hasn't happened to me so how can I understand or help", but that ignorance is the problem. I was once the same and once it happened to me I felt so alone because it's a topic not often spoken about because of fears of shame or judgements, but we must change that. It's never too late to start a conversation.
Sometimes people just need space and constantly showing someone who has been sexually assaulted that you care to just LISTEN, is very important. Some questions I wish people asked me are:
-What can I do to make you feel comfortable?
-Can you please explain to me how exactly you're feeling and WHY?---this is an important question because we often don't ask ourselves where exactly these feelings are coming from. Once you find the root of the problem, you can try to work towards a solution.
Should people who have been sexually assaulted who have not shared their story actually take the step? What do you think is the first step in sharing this difficult memory?
I think everyone should eventually share their story because then we could break the silence. I was one of those people who thought keeping it to myself would just help me forget it if I didn't put it back out into the world again. I saw it as something that happened to me and just me. But the truth is, its happening to so many others. You are not alone. I personally felt lonely because none of my friends had gone through a similar experience and I was embarrassed to be the friend who was sexually assaulted. I saw it as a label and that's wrong. It does not define you. I think the first step to telling your story is to write everything that's going through your head. Whether that's typing or hand writing it. You must release those thoughts in order to speak them out loud and don't be afraid to read them. Be strong and tell yourself that this is YOUR story, and if it were to be published, what would you want to say.
What are some resources (books, apps, etc.) that helped you find yourself and come to terms with what happened?
After coming home from Spain, I knew I had to find myself again. I had died and did not know how to live again. I was in college and had to go back to functioning the way everyone expected me to function. I had to go back to complete assignments, interact with friends, engage in conversations, create youtube videos, all while I was completely broken inside. I was just existing. I knew reading would probably help but I never really enjoyed it so I researched self-help books and that's where my love began. The first book I read was The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, and wow did that book change my life. I was so enlightened by his words and I had hope that there was more to live for. I listen to it on Audible all the time when I need an extra boost of wisdom. Another book that helped me through this journey is The Surrender Experiment, also by Michael Singer. His books are incredible.
Does being raped define you? How does it affect your daily life, if it does?
Sadly, in the beginning I did believe it defined me and that's because I had felt so ashamed for what I did to my best friend but I was so naive. I can't believe now how mean I was to myself. I beat myself up everyday for scratching up her face, but in reality, her scars have healed and mine will take years to combat. I was so selfless in thinking that I had deserved what had happened to me because I was violent towards her, but NO. She had a choice. And she choose to abandon me in a foreign country. If it were our hometown, that would have been different but after I told her I was raped she didn't even believe me. Her words were along the lines of "how do you know that's true". I was so appalled by her selfishness and I understood she was afraid of me for hitting her but wow, what really bothers me till this day is that I knew this person for over 5 years! She was like my sister. We shared trips together, sleepovers, makeup, clothing, etc. And here I am, making excuses for her for months! I told myself I was a monster and needed help, but in reality she fucked up. She treated me like trash especially when I was already beating myself up. It really saddens me still to think about how someone could be so cruel. But I cannot continue torturing myself. Being raped Does Not define me and it shouldn't define anyone. We are fighters.
Did this affect your relationship?
Unfortunately it did. It wasn't affecting my relationship on the surface but deep down it was hurting us. The only reason Brandon and I even worked out in the past year is because of our intense connection. I couldn't even think about sex or commit to a relationship after what had happened, but with him it was so different. We have great chemistry and I believe that is very important when being with someone after you've been sexually assaulted. There were times where I did not want to have sex because I just felt uncomfortable, but he was always supportive and affectionate. He didn't make me feel guilty, but deep down I made myself feel guilty because I believed I was damaged. I knew he loved me and our connection was stronger than anything, but the voice inside my head was so powerful. After we broke up, he expressed to me how helpless he felt not being able to help me fight my demons but I assured him, it is not his battle to fight. I explained to him that it would have been helpful if he had actually asked me questions and didn't just let me keep my pain inside, but I knew he was just respecting my space. Sometimes you just need that little push from someone you love to help you get out of your head, and that's one thing I wish we would have done differently. I wish we just spoke about it more instead of avoiding it. But, it was partly my fault because I just did not want to let go of my vulnerability. I had given him every part of me and that piece of vulnerability was the only thing I had left to myself.
What was the first week after the assault like?
It was terrible. I was in so much shock, denial, and pain all at once. I remember going to the doctor the day after I got back home from Spain because I was terrified of having an STD or any illness for that matter. When I told my doctor what had happened he was so shocked and told me he could clearly see how badly I was being affected. I was depressed and did not even realize it. My life was constantly in recovery mode. I felt like I had to fight everything and everyone. I couldn't eat the same. I even threw up water. WATER! I had to take tiny sips to keep it down. I was so broken. I couldn't even keep water down and my food portions were limited for a whole month. My body was just in a state of shock. I remember going back to college the next day after going to see my doctor and once he assured me that I was OK physically (no illness or STD's) I felt like I could keep moving again. I remember driving up to school and Brandon was on campus because he had not gone home for spring break, so I wanted to go be with him because being home was just too painful. School was my safe place at that point and our friendship was very fresh and I loved being with him. We were hooking up at the time, so he was "my person, my companion". He made me feel safe and that's why I love him so much. He was with me during the most difficult time in my life and I couldn't even share it with my roommates because I was simply not ready. That, in the end went to shit because I was acting so different around them that they felt like I was "attacking" them anytime I would ask for something as simple as taking out the trash, when in reality I was just crying for help inside and they just didn't help me feel comfortable enough to tell them everything that had happened to me. So instead our friendships went to shit (another reason why you should speak up and share your story).
I hope answering these questions give you more insight into my situation and bring light to other people's stories. Thank you so much for reading and don't hesitate to contact me if you have more questions.