How I'm Taking My Power Back as a Sexual Assault Survivor


I have written and rewritten this a hundred times over in my head. Even when I thought this was a story I would never share, I wrote it out. Somewhere inside me I knew that as part of my healing process, one day I would talk about it.

That being said, I know there will be some of you who don’t agree with my decision to speak out about this on this platform. You have your own opinions and you are entitled to them, but with all due respect this is my story. It is a story that needs to be shared.

I had a secret, something I held inside me for years. Until recently I held so much shame over this secret, but I’ve come to realize that my life doesn’t have to be a secret. Speaking takes away the secrecy and the feeling of shame. So here it goes.

When I was 15, I was the victim of rape.

Wow, that’s quite a sentence for me to say. I’m not speaking out about this to shock you. I’m not looking for sympathy. My only motive is for spreading awareness about sexual assault and mental illness.

I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from my assault, however, I was not diagnosed with PTSD when I was 15. The trauma I suffered was so severe that it fractured my mind in a way. Our brains are marvelous things, and mine knew that I could not handle the trauma at that time and it took the memory away from me. This is not uncommon.

I had suffered a trauma though. My body couldn’t forget what happened, and it came out in different ways. I became extremely anxious, depressed and I experienced psychotic symptoms. My doctors didn’t know why these symptoms were happening so suddenly and I was misdiagnosed as schizoaffective.

About a year and a half ago, the memories had been coming back to me, and I gathered up the courage to tell my therapist and parents. Suddenly everything made sense. The schizoaffective diagnosis was changed to PTSD and I started trauma therapy. I went to a residential treatment program for 10 weeks. When I started getting help for the rape, I started making progress. I became stable for the first time in years.

I am still recovering. I see my wonderful therapist every week, I am in a support group for women of childhood sexual abuse, and I practice my coping skills every day. I will be in treatment for a long time, but I have absolutely no intention of letting what happened to me ruin my life.

I am taking back the control that was taken away from me.

One important way I am doing this is by writing. Writing and speaking is very therapeutic for me, and it is so important that we start speaking out about sexual assault. I get it, it’s not a fun conversation to have, but it is so incredibly needed.

The stigma is so strong around those people who are victims of sexual assault. I have supportive parents and a loving family, and I was terrified for the longest time to put this out there. I’m still nervous about it.

Stigma breeds shame which breeds silence.

So I am breaking my silence and I am spreading awareness. If not me, then who?

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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Thinkstock photo via bellanatella


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