Thursday, November 19, 2015

So You've Been Sexually Assaulted, What Now?

I've been open about the fact that I was sexually assaulted.  What I haven't been open about is the aftermath.

*Trigger Warning* This post may be upsetting for some readers. Hell, it may even be upsetting for me and I'm writing the damn thing.  If you are at all upset by sexual assault or PTSD, please take care of yourself and refrain from reading.

I was sexually assaulted at 21 years old while visiting my cousin at Samford University. My assaulter took advantage of my intoxication at a fraternity party and lead me back to his dorm room where he violated me.  While sexual assault is messed up enough, it's sick and twisted that I consider myself lucky I wasn't raped.  When I came out of it enough to realize what was happening, I got myself out of the situation and demanded he walk me back.  The rest of the night is in and out since I had consumed a lot of alcohol.  But when I woke up the next morning, I knew that I wasn't okay.

I immediately started calling people, trying to find support and make sense of what was happening to me.  I didn't go to the police, because I know rape is difficult enough to prosecute.  A lesser sexual assault would be insane.  On top of being intoxicated and evidence, this would never make it to trial.  For a while after, I pretended it didn't happen.  I didn't want to consider that a woman who had taken self defense classes and helped teach it was capable of being victimized sexually.  So at that point, it didn't happen.  It never happened.  But obviously, as anyone even the tiniest bit versed in psychology or victimology knows, this frame of mind can't last forever.

Eventually, I was prepared to start working through it.  What I wasn't prepared for was the PTSD.  One night, after having a decent amount of alcohol, I started having a flashback.  Suddenly, his face was in my head, the darkness of the room flashed before me, and it was as if I was experiencing the worst moment of my life all over again.  I couldn't stop crying. I curled into a ball and sobbed and couldn't move.  While I had not had suicidal thoughts in years, I wanted to blow my brains out just to get the images out of my head.

After time, I was able to move forward.  The flashbacks became less and less, and I especially avoided alcohol.  I knew that being tipsy would be even more of a trigger because of my intoxication that night.  Time would help heal me, and I would go years without a flashback.  Until recently.  It drives me beyond crazy that this asshole, this piece of shit, still affects me.  That he is inside my head.  I hate it.  I know I've made so many strides and so much progress, but the fact that he is inside my head kills me.  For a while after the assault, hearing his first name would make me flinch.  It took liking a celebrity with the same first name to get over that.

Apart from PTSD, there was another part of the aftermath I wasn't prepared to have.  While I was a virgin when the assault happened, I wasn't a prude.  But after the assault, I felt disgusting.  I wanted nothing to do with my sexuality.  It took me ages before I felt okay to date again and even longer before I was comfortable doing anything sexually.  It would still be years until I actually lost my virginity.  And it wasn't until I was completely comfortable and at ease.

It isn't easy.  I may have dedicated myself to making things better for survivors and trying to help people from becoming victimized.  I may have moved on and experienced healthy sexual relationships.  I may have progressed to having barely any flashbacks.  But this part of my life will always be with me.  It will never go away.  But I will do all I can to minimize the impact this has on my life.

For others, if you know someone who has been victimized, be supportive.  Don't blame them for something that wasn't their fault.  Listen, hold them, let them cry.  Let them work through what has happened.  Be helpful.  Be kind.