It started with a drink…
It started with a sweet conversation…
He was my boyfriend, I thought I had to just go with it…
My skirt wasn’t that short….
My dad was just reading me a bedtime story and tucking me into bed….
There are endless stories of how it started but they all end the same. With bruises, tears, and the repeating nightmares of the penetration. Some end in unknown, or unwanted pregnancies, sadly some in death. Sexual assault, i.e. rape, or molestation is more common than we know. A lot of victims are coming forth telling their stories and speaking out about their abuser. According to Rainn.org “every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 5 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison for it”. And yes men experience it too, in fact 1 in 33 men have experienced it in a life time. This is NOT OKAY!
Whether it be a date rape drug, or a family member or even your lover, sexual assault is NOT OKAY! 8 of 10 cases show that the perpetrator is someone you know. Which makes it even more hard to open up about it. But no matter who did it, the survivor deserves support and care.
It wasn’t because your skirt was too short, it wasn’t because you ‘asked for it’. If your lover forces it, you are still not obligated to go through with sex. But we should be aware of the early red flags that show this may occur:
- Your partner trying to control who you engage with and limits the contacts with others.
- Your partner goes against your wishes of using contraceptives and uses silly excuses (why they don’t want to use condoms, or birth control).
- Begins to control your means of communication and shows signs of defensiveness while there are in a conversation or if you are even near their phone.
- Touches you uncomfortably in public or private places.
- Doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
- Physically harms you then later claims it was your fault.
- Uses drugs or alcohol to blur your line of judgment or ability to say no.
- Pushes for a sext conversation or pressures you to “send a picture” or “loosen just the top button”.
- Spends time alone with children outside of their role in the child’s life, or is making excuses just to be alone with the child.
- Gives random gifts to child.
These are just a few signs, please do some research and be informed. I know sometimes it feels like it may be impossible to avoid being assaulted, especially when you aren’t showing signs of wanting sexual attention. There's no way to actually spot a rapist by how they looks, some look friendly, beautiful and non threatening. Nonetheless, stay woke and be aware.
Now, if you have experienced this…first I want to apologize. I am sorry that you were taken for granted. Someone you thought cared about your being, stole your privacy and tried to take ownership of you. It probably left you feeling scared, embarrassed, maybe guilty. You no longer trust others let alone yourself at times. You may feel triggered at moments and suffer through depression. You may not even have known it occurred until later in age. You probably had sex with them before but this one time was different, you didn’t want it. (which FYI is still rape). Speaking about it isn’t easy, doing something about it …. Isn’t easy but it is important!
- Open up about it to someone you trust. Don’t feel dirty or weak or afraid of how others may react. Don’t quickly think they will judge you and look at you differently. It feels safe to just pretend it didn’t happen but when you stay quiet, you don’t recover from it and you remain just a victim instead of a survivor. So tell someone you trust or find a support group. Maybe even a therapist or the rape crisis hotline.
- Change your feeling of helplessness and isolation. It was a tragedy you never want to experience again, it left you feeling vulnerable and powerless. Remind yourself daily of your strengths and coping skills. Reclaim that power, help others who too feel that way. Or help others by donating blood or to a charity. Do some volunteer work too or pick up an intense hobby or sport.
- Cope with the guilt feeling. It was not your fault and you need to learn to accept that. Acknowledge the truth of what happened and clear the misconceptions of not stopping it or trusting someone you “shouldn’t” have. Or you let yourself get to drunk and careless. The best way is to try to remember what happened step by step and clear thoughts of any self accountability that wasn’t true.
- You may experience flashbacks or trigger moments. I know for one I get aggressive or loud when I see someone put their hand within 6 ft of my face and neck. Or if someone holds my hand a certain way I immediately freeze. Being aware of these triggers and paying attention to your body’s danger signals allows you to prepare your next move. Lets you remain calm and collective to then become alert of the next action. For example, a person may just be moving hair from my face or pointing at my freckles. Keep calm and breathing slowly helps stop you from having anxiety and spiraling out of control.
- Reconnect with yourself and avoid numbing yourself. When you shut down those unpleasant thoughts and sensations you also may shut down your self awareness and capacity of joy. You disconnect both emotionally and physically, like you are here physically but not fully there mentally. This also tends to happen after a break up. When you just shut down all emotions and your ‘heart turns to ice’. Nurture yourself and practice self care.
If you know someone who is recovering from rape or a sexual trauma, first let them know you still love them and you are there for them. The biggest thing they need right now is support and comfort. Don’t be angry and accuse them of anything because they already feel ashamed. Instead let them open up and encourage them to seek help. They may be sensitive to intimacy so don’t quickly reach in for a hug, you should probably ask before you do so. Be patient with them, they are healing from a trauma they never asked to experience. Lend an ear to hear, arms for love and support.
Get more help by reaching out to the Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). Also know that my inbox is always open. You are not alone and you certainly do not have to heal alone either.