My sexual assault left an awful taste I can’t get rid of — something that just doesn’t sound right no matter how much time passes. I don’t know if there will ever be a day when speaking about my assault will ever sound “normal” coming out of my mouth. Even after (almost) six years, I still find myself struggling daily, learning how to cope with my past and how to keep it there. Even worse beyond the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and constant anxiety my sexual assault left me stranded with, I also learned to be good friends with guilt and anger.
Advocating for other sexual assault survivors and those struggling with mental health has always been my passion. However, whenever it gets to be my turn to share, I can’t help but tremble when people respond, “I wish I could cope like you” or even worse — “I’m so happy you’ve forgiven the person who assaulted you.”
I tremble because I know it’s a lie.
I haven’t forgiven him. I spend nights raging with anger. I spend mornings stuck in bed wondering how I could have let something like this happen to me. I find myself in a whirlwind of depression I can’t shake, and I end up hating myself for it later. I allow it to control my life and I have no power over it some days.
For me, the worst part of a sexual assault isn’t living through the trauma. It’s the fact that years later, nobody understands why you can’t move on. Why you are unable to function like everyone else, why someone who isn’t wasting any of their time thinking about you is controlling your life.
After listening to “Praying,” I’ve finally found something that has given me the validation I haven’t found anywhere else. I felt understood, empowered and deeply moved by the Kesha’s lyrics:
“‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is I wish you farewell
I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying
Oh, sometimes, I pray for you at night
Someday, maybe you’ll see the light
Oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
But some things only God can forgive.”
In a little over three minutes, my perspective changed on an event that has so deeply impacted my life. I know there was something broken in you that allowed you to hurt me. I am not angry with you, I am sad for you. I am so sorry you are unable to love another human enough to consider how life threatening the consequences of your actions could be. And as much as my whole mentality has been based around me being the “victim,” I’m nowhere near that. I’ve won. I am proud of the compassionate, strong and brave woman I have become, no matter what I’ve gone through to become her.
It is amazing how someone else’s story in whatever form we hear it from — music, song, dance, poetry, articles on The Mighty — can bring us so much peace and understanding. We begin to heal the moment we feel we are heard.
I hope you’re somewhere praying.
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Screenshot via Kesha’s YouTube channel.