Today was such a reminder to me of how much of a difference it makes when we become transparent and open with our struggles. The truth is that there are many different people out there who may have experienced something similar, but so often it is so quiet!
I am a survivor of multiple sexual assaults and in the past 2 years or so I’ve become more open and started telling my story in bits and pieces. I started out with RAINN’s (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) speaker’s bureau. I had an opportunity to speak at Cal State Northridge during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2012 and that sparked the fire within me. In that experience I had multiple people who told me their story. The one that had impacted me the most was a volunteer for campus’ rape crisis program. Although she was thoroughly involved in the program she had never told anyone before that she was raped. So many people who have survived rape are so confused/unsure of what happened. When this girl heard my story it was like her mind clicked and understood that it really was rape. I can’t even tell you how often my mind fumbled around the idea of rape. I would constantly ask myself that question -“Was I really Raped?” after the question a series of “buts” followed. “But I didn’t really fight, But he was my BF, But it wasn’t really violent, But I probably could of gotten away? It took me a long time to come to terms that it was actually rape; it took me 1.5 years to be exact for the first sexual assault. After my brain began to accept the idea I was dying to hear someone confirm that idea or thought. I wanted someone to hear my story and say “that was rape”. When I heard those words I felt relieved, because that meant I wasn’t crazy. This girl I had met finally felt safe to tell her story and secretly ask that question “was I raped?”. It is terrifying to tell your story, because although I have had positive experiences from sharing I have seen the negative too. One of the first few people I told about being raped told me ” Are you sure your not just saying that because your not a virgin?” The initial people are so pivotal in recovery.
When I was in my period of confusion I was dying to hear, read or meet someone who had a story similar to mine. I felt so alone, but reality was that there were many others who have walked similar roads that were around me personally. I’ve learned that my openness has given permission to many people to share their story, and when I’ve met fellow survivors it is a great comfort. I know that the thoughts that I have are common or shared in some way. When I wrestle with thoughts and feel crazy now I’m often so hesitant to talk about it. I’ve found that to be such a disservice to myself for when I finally talk about it to a fellow survivor the reaction is usually ” Wow! I feel the same way. I’m not crazy” or an array of other reactions. Where I struggle most now is that there are times where I have felt that I have gotten past what happened and get frustrated when things still come up. I use to obsess over the word “recovered”, when I had a set back I would feel that I will never be free or recovered. Time has taught me that being recovered does not mean I don’t struggle or have set backs, but when they do come I have the tools to handle them and not stay stuck there. The truth is I will have battles with depression and I do experience post traumatic stress symptoms, but that doesn’t mean I’m back at square one. It simply means I have survived things that were traumatic and I’m learning to deal with the trauma as it affects me. Healing isn’t some timeline; it is messy and often out of order. The value in all is that I will always feel alone and crazy if I always keep it to myself and so will the survivors around me. We are not meant to journey this world alone. God has placed people in my life that encourage me and lift me up and for me to encourage, but it is up to me to stop being so silent.