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What I Wish I’d Known As A Survivor of Sexual Assault

Posted by Alexandra Van Rijn on



TW: Sexual Assault 


Written by Mayette Oleson


I was sexually assaulted by a former teacher when I was in high school.  I was a teen; he was in his 30’s.  It was the most catastrophic experience of my life. Though maybe not exactly, I’ve been where you are.  I’ve walked the miles in those broken, battered sneakers.  I’ve lived within the walls of that metaphoric jail cell.  

It’s impossible to imagine that anyone else could have endured what you have; it’s impossible to imagine a LOT of things when you’ve been sexually assaulted, which is why I’m here to share with you what I wish I’d known in the aftermath of surviving sexual assault.

1. YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT

This is NOT. YOUR. FAULT. in any way, shape, or form.
You have been taken advantage of, in every sense of the phrase.
Someone weaselled their way into your life.  They saw your cracks and open wounds, and saw their entry point.  It doesn’t matter what you formerly said or perhaps even agreed upon, what you were wearing, or if there was alcohol involved or not.  The millisecond that person decided that your boundaries were not worth respecting, regardless of if you were coherent enough to express that or not, that person took all of the blame.

I know you might think you’re the one to blame, but I promise you, one day, you’ll be free of those chains.

2. YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE

One of the things I struggled with the most was feeling like the only person in the Universe that had this horrible thing happen to them.  
“Why me? Why was I the only one out of all of the other teens that was singled out?”
Finding out that, in fact, I was so far from being the only one, was horrifying - but also comforting.  To know that I wasn’t alone in my Hell was a relief.  I needed to know there were others who had gone through a similar experience as I had.  
Statistically, 1 in 4 women in North America will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. It’s staggering, but it’s true.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that if a woman hasn’t experienced it herself, she knows a woman who has.
You are NOT alone, and you’ll make it through this.

3. YOUR PERCEPTION IS SKEWED

I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened to me because I was embarrassed.  I was scared that I would be blamed, I was scared that I would be judged, and I was scared that I would get in trouble.  I fought long and hard to protect the monster who assaulted me because I thought it was all on me, and I thought protecting him was what I had to do.
This is a very common reaction.  You’ve gone through a LOT and your perception is skewed.  Don’t expect yourself to be able to think rationally.  Forgive yourself for also not being able to do so.

4. THERE IS SUPPORT OUT THERE


For a long time after my assault was reported, I saw those trying to help me as the enemy.  I fought against everything for weeks.  It was hard for me to trust that someone out there was genuinely trying to assist me.  (HUGE thank you to my Mom, and to the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre for ignoring my battle cries and fighting tirelessly on on my behalf.  I owe you everything).
It’s psychological trauma just as much as it is physical trauma.  Allow yourself the space to come to process what has happened, and what is continuing to happen.  Allow those who are trying to help you to do just that.  I know how incredibly impossible it seems to permit someone else into your story, but it’s so worth it - no matter how hard it may seem in the beginning.

5. THINGS WILL GET BETTER


As with all darkness, there will also come light.
You will rediscover and reclaim your self-identity.  You will find a sense of self worth once more.
You will begin to genuinely smile again.  I fully understand that black cloud that moves in over your life.  That presence that makes you feel like you will never have a reason to smile ever again.  I promise you, you will. 
You will rediscover your strength through the support of others.  It will be an accumulation of the love that you receive from your family and friends, your community; from the stories and people that emerge into the light from their own darkness.  

From those who fight alongside to end the stigma surrounding sexual assault.

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