Healing From Sexual Assault Can Start With Four Words
**Trigger Warning: This article contains graphic discussions of rape and abuse of a sexual nature from survivors. It may be painful for some to read.**
“I’m proud of you.”
Those were the words my therapist said to me as I sat in her office. I was broken, shattered, not even human in my eyes. I was the shell of a young woman who’d spent her life until that moment carrying the weight of years of abuse.
There was nothing left inside of me by that point. The only thing I knew before walking into that office was that I was tired. Tired enough that, through the cacophony of painful memories, I understood one terrifying fact: I wanted to die.
It wasn’t fair.
No, not just wanted. Right then, at that moment, I needed to die. Living with everything that had happened to me was just too much. No one can take that much pain, that much trauma. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t possible for me to live with the guilt, the shame, the disgust I had for myself.
I was exhausted. I didn’t have the strength to fight anymore. How do you battle your own brain? How do you stop the constant barrage of memories? The nightmares? How do you stop hating yourself for something you logically know wasn’t your fault?
But it must have been my fault, right? I wasn’t strong enough to fight him off. I wasn’t brave enough to tell someone so it could stop. And why me? What did I do as a child to encourage this? I must have done something, right?
Making the decision to go to therapy was the smartest thing I’d ever done. My therapist was a slender woman with kind eyes and a killer pencil skirt. I remember thinking how badass she looked. No. She wasn’t wearing motorcycle boots and a leather jacket, but she was definitely a woman who knew her worth.
I hated myself for being a woman.
She radiated confidence and a quiet feminity that felt so damn powerful to me. At the time, I hated myself for being a woman. Hell, at the time, I didn’t even fully understand what that word meant.
She listened to me as I word vomited the reason I was there. It was a long story, beginning with childhood abuse and ending with the grownup version. I’d been molested, raped, and physically abused practically my whole life.
I remember not having a clue where to begin. My tale came out in incomprehensible scenes rather than anything cohesive. Still, she listened, letting me get it all out without once interrupting me.
“I’m proud of you.”
Four words. That’s it. No judgment. No pity. No look of disgust. Just four words.
I will never forget that day. Not because it was the beginning of my journey towards healing, but because that was the day I finally glimpsed how strong I truly was.
If you’re reading this right now and you’ve been sexually assaulted or abused, I want you to know one thing:
You aren’t a victim. You are a survivor, and I am proud of you.
I‘m proud of you because you have spent every day battling against what happened, against memories, flashbacks, panic attacks, society and the warped culture that we have which says things like this are okay.
I‘m proud of you for not listening to that small voice which tells you to give up. I‘m proud of you for doing everything you can to move forward, to heal. And, if you are one of the few who reported your abuse, I’m proud as hell of you for being a voice for other survivors.
If you found therapy, like me, I’m proud of you for asking for help. And, if you are too scared to ask for help, I’m proud of you for admitting that too.
You do not have to do this on your own.
It may be scary. It may be painful but, I promise you, speaking about what happened will heal you. Here are some resources which can help:
- RAINN-The US’ largest anti-sexual violence organization
- Joyful Heart Foundation-Founded by Actress Mariska Hargitay and is now a leading national organization with a mission to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever
- NSVRC-The National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s mission is to provide leadership in preventing and responding to sexual violence through collaboration, sharing and creating resources, and promoting research.
- PAVE-Promoting Awareness/Victim Empowerment works to prevent sexual violence and helps survivors thrive after trauma.