I am brave. I am honest. I am strong — at least, today I am.
Two words that make people feel ill-at-ease to see, hear or say out loud.
Maybe you’ve experienced it too. Maybe you have a similar story to share. Maybe it wasn’t you, but your best friend who had to experience it. Regardless of the situation, you are not alone. I am not alone. We are not alone.
Growing up, I became familiar with the topic surrounding sexual assault through various health courses and books. The one thing I didn’t know, until afterward, was how it truly affects you — mentally, emotionally, physically. Not just with one person, or yourself for that matter, but with everyone who falls into and surrounds your world.
To be sexually assaulted is to be broken, in more ways than one. Initially, you feel strong enough to fight, but when that amount of force — a force so demanding, so powerful — is thrust upon you, your mind immediately shifts from defense mode to shock and numbness. You feel empty, confused, overwhelmed. Not knowing how to feel or what to do. You feel cowardly for not fighting back, even with the repeated attempts and screams of “no”.
You feel like you’ve just lost control of everything in your life. Your emotions continue along this teeter-totter of extreme, out of control, and seem all over the place. You try to feel love. You try to feel hate. You try to feel happy, sad, and everything in between. Something, anything. But your mind and body won’t allow you to feel anything but empty and insignificant. You feel foreign in your own skin.
You fear for your present and future; not being able to completely and fully let someone into your heart and your world again. You fear that you will never be the same. You fear you will never be able to experience trust and vulnerability the way you did before — with family, friends, and a significant other. You prefer to only be around new faces in large groups, where there is no possible opportunity to be isolated by another individual. You fear not wanting to be intimate with another person. You wonder whether or not you will ever want or enjoy sexual relationships again out of fear that being sexually intimate may remind you of the assault. You wonder whether or not you can, ever again, because it’s no longer an act out of love and/or genuine intimacy. To you, it has now become an act out of power and aggression. It no longer encompasses the meaning you believed in up until that moment. It’s just emptiness accompanied by a bruised heart and body.
I intentionally blocked that memory out, creating this temporary window of amnesia during that time, so it seems. I have this tendency to prefer to struggle through the big stuff on my own; trying to put together and mend the broken pieces on my own. After this incident took place is really the first time I began writing in many, many years. Immediately following this incident, the only way I could really move past it was to write — to write it all down and see where my healing journey took me on paper; to see if I could create a new world for myself outside of this shadow of darkness I had just come face to face with. Writing is what helped me sort through my teeter-totter emotions of guilt, anger, confusion, fear and everything across the board. It helped me believe I could see the good in the world again, even with this permanent scar. It helped me envision this new world, where this shadow of darkness was just that — a shadow’s past.
Most of my publications are uplifting and genuine, because that was the broken writer within me, giving myself advice on how to pick up the broken pieces and move forward with my life.
It takes time, but you can get through it, you will get through it. Each person handles a crisis situation differently — think of the things that help you get through difficult times in your past. Be compassionate toward yourself; give yourself time to heal. Find the things that bring happiness and passion back into your life, things that make you feel like you can take control, once again. You will need time and you will have this memory with you in the back of your mind through every encounter moving forward — but you will be okay. You will overcome.
I don’t want “I’m sorry” and I don’t want pity. I’m not broken; no matter how often the hurt resurfaces, I refuse to be broken. I’m simply putting my broken pieces back together and sharing my story with everyone else in this world who needs guidance through theirs.
Your story doesn’t have to end with the broken pieces and this darkness following your every step forward. Let this be the beginning of your comeback story — the one that allows you to feel alive and free, once again. Today and all of the days following, I am brave. I am honest. I am strong — today and all of the days following, you are brave. You are honest. You are strong.