7 Things I Wish I Knew After I Was Sexually Assaulted


Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I was 19 years old. I was enjoying the fun and excitement of my first “casual sex” or “friends with benefits” type situation. Something I believe both men and women have the right to experience as an enjoyable, empowering experience. That being said, I was 19 and naive with a life that made me particularly at risk for choosing less than ideal men to be in my life, including ones that only lowered my already very low self-worth. It turns out I also chose to surround myself with friends that only lowered my self-worth as well.

I realize that no 19 year old — or anyone really — knows exactly what to do for another person (or for themselves) after they’ve been assaulted. However, I feel like there are a few things that should be common sense that apparently are not. I never did do a really great job of standing up to these so-called friends at the time, and I don’t see the point in standing up to them now after all of these years. So instead, naturally I’ve turned to my blog to teach other people how to have what should be common sense in these situations.

Here’s what I wish I knew after being sexually assaulted.

1. Go to the ER.

I was in shock for months after this happened to me, trying to come up with any plausible explanation for the event that would make it not be rape. I did not want to believe someone whom I had considered a friend, someone who I invited into my home, into my family and friend Christmas gatherings, into my social circle, into my body, could do this to me. I was too busy searching every corner of my mind for a different outcome to even think to go to the ER for a rape kit or even to check me for STDs or give me plan B or simply make sure that physically I was OK.

2. Call the police.

I waited almost a year to finally report this incident, and partially because of this there was lack of evidence to prosecute. The man who did this to me has never paid any price for what he did to me. He did apologize to me once, so I know he understands what he did was wrong, and he has to live with that for the rest of his life. Even though my case did not go to trial, it is on record for anyone who reports him in the future, and I do believe he has done this before and will do it again. This is why anyone who is assaulted needs to report it even if it won’t make it to court.

3. You’re not going to be OK for a very long time, but one day you will be.

I didn’t think I’d ever be OK again. But I am. I am definitely changed and scarred, but I’m also healed and wiser. My chest no longer burns like an open wound and is now a dull ache. A reminder of what once was, and how if I can overcome that, then I truly can overcome anything. The validation and honesty that comes with this sentence is huge to a survivor, or at least it would have been to me.

4. I believe you, and I’m here for you.

I needed someone to be outraged for me. Someone who’s emotion validated everything I was experiencing. When I reached out to my friends completely lost and confused, telling them what had happened to me as if I wasn’t even sure I believed it myself, I needed someone to say, “Wow! That is so wrong. I am so sorry. I love you, I believe you, I am angry for you, let me help you.” At the time, I didn’t have the type of friends who can see outside of themselves for long enough to be outraged for anyone. In fact, some of them told me it was my fault.

5. You are not alone.

Do you know how many Canadians this happens to? One in four women in North America alone will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Look around you, how many women are around you? How many women and young girls do you have in your every day life? Think of your mothers, grandmothers, aunts, nieces, sisters, daughters and friends. One in four of those women and girls have or will be sexually assaulted at some point. About 60 percent of them will have been under the age of 17, and 80 percent of the assailants will be a friend or family member of the victim.

6. Rape is rape. It doesn’t matter whether or not you were already involved with the assailant.

Instead I was asked by a very important male figure in my life, “Well were you already sleeping with him?” Even if the assailant and the victim are married, any non-consensual sexual act is assault. Period.

7. Your assailant won’t hold you back — you will always surpass them because you are a survivor.

I thought it was my fault. I thought he had taken my power. I thought he had taken pieces of me that would never regrow. Looking back on this incident now, I actually feel bad for him because he probably had some serious issues to have committed such an act against someone.

People think sexual assault is rare, but it’s not. It is however under-reported and under-prosecuted. That woman you met in the elevator today, the child at the bus stop, the telemarketer who interrupted your dinner, the person delivering your mail, they could all be survivors. Check out these Canadian statistics to understand how common this really is.

  • Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
  • 1 – 2% of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police
  • 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
  • 11% of women have physical injury resulting for sexual assault
  • Only 2 – 4% of all sexual assaults reported are false reports
  • 60% of sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17
  • over 80% of sex crime victims are women
  • 80% of sexual assault incidents occur in the home
  • 17% of girls under 16 have experienced some form of incest
  • 83% of disabled women will be sexual assaulted during their lifetime
  • 15% of sexual assault victims are boys under 16
  • half of all sexual offenders are married or in long term relationships
  • 57% of aboriginal women have been sexually abused
  • 1/5th of all sexual assaults involve a weapon of some sort
  • 80% of assailants are friends and family of the victim

If one of your close friends is assaulted, sexually or otherwise, I really do feel it is your duty as their friend to offer your support, your confidence and your unwavering love to the survivor because this person will not be able to do it for themselves possibly for a very, very long time. Also, if anyone is reading this who may have made a mistake with how they handled this situation with me, we all screw up. Forgive yourself, on the basis that you learn from this and be better with the next person in your life who’s experiencing something like this, because trust me, there will be more.

And to my own assailant: you didn’t ruin me. You didn’t take away my trust for the human race or male population. I’m still here, spreading love wherever I go.

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Getty Images photo via bruniewska

This story originally appeared on Out of the Rabbit Hole.


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