Living with Sexual Assault

Trigger Warning *

When I write about living with sexual assault, I mean living with it every day.  While my personal experiences have greatly influenced my writing here, I have not openly discussed them. After years of going over and over everything that happened, explanations remain difficult.  Is there really any explanation for what happened? Bad luck?

I was 16.  He was nice to me at first. I made the “mistake” of trusting him and the boy who was my first kiss would also be the one to touch and grope me without my consent, to ignore me when I said no, to make excuses for “just one thing”.  He would be the one to rate me numerically, valuing my looks and “sex appeal” over personality, to make me cringe anytime I heard “sexy” or “beautiful,” to insist that he had something to “teach” me.  He would be the one to star in numerous flashbacks and nightmares.

After that it was hard to feel comfortable with myself, let alone another person. 

For a year I tried to pretend nothing happened.  Even when I did process these things, labelling myself as the victim of an assault was difficult. Over the years I have talked and talked and written, too.  That doesn’t stop it from feeling like a secret I have to carry, a burden not to be shared with everyone.

On any day I can be triggered.  The panic/anxiety attacks I used to experience have faded in frequency, but unpleasant memories continue to surface.  My coping skills have improved, but the facts of the matter have not.

Living with the aftermath means never knowing when you’ll be okay or what okay is or if it’s really fair for people to expect you to be fine. 

It means being “sensitive” when people joke about assault and rape, belonging to a group of people who have seen the realities of this kind of victimization.  Sometimes it means feeling like I’m in another realm.  Sometimes it means I’m angry or sad or hurt or incapable of accepting the cruel things people can say to one another.

Am I easily offended? Yes. So is everyone.  In fact, it’s easy to hurt anyone. That doesn’t make it acceptable to do so, or mean that I should have to apologize for recognizing a problem that blatantly exists.

I have grown in so many ways, stronger in spite of, not because of, what happened to me.  I have been told not to be bitter, but I have to say, that isn’t so easy.

That PTSD and Fibromyalgia are linked? That makes me bitter.  When I consider all the pain I’ve had and all that Im likely to experience, I am angry.

Despite my decision to finally confront the person who hurt me by writing a letter,  I never received an apology. That makes me bitter too.

That I’ve spent so much time blaming myself for things beyond my control? You can see the pattern.

So here I am, in the open, as a “survivor,” hesitant to credit the boy who hurt me for any of my strength, but unable to deny that what happened to me has shaped my life, but not as much as I have through my actions. 

Writing these things, I am not passive.  I do what I can to make my voice heard. I do what I can to make my life better and to help others if I can.

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