20 Things I Want You to Know as Someone Who's Survived Rape

These last few weeks I’ve been challenged again and again and again — in all aspects of my life. I’m left reeling, not really knowing where I’m going, who I am or how I feel. Through all this, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection. I’ve decided there are some things I want you to know:

1. I speak from my experiences — where I am at and where I have been. Some of the following may be true for others who have experienced rape, but they also may not be — we are all different.

2. Four and a half years later, I still think about it. I still see his face. I still get flashbacks — both visual and physical ones.

3. Forgiveness can be really hard. I can’t engage with that discussion at the same level as everyone else because I know what I want to share is more of a “bombshell topic.” I can’t think of other examples because as soon as we are asked in what situation we have struggled to forgive the most, I see his face. If you could picture yourself as a room, the thoughts of this relationship feel like a balloon, expanding into every gap in the room.

4. Sometimes when you ask if I’m OK, I’m not. Even if I say I am.

5. When I say I am OK, I usually mean I’ve only had one or two flashbacks that day, and that they weren’t too bad. OK should mean that I’m doing well; “doing well” shouldn’t look like someone haunted by the past.

6. There are so many times I feel like bursting — wanting to explode and talk to people about what happened — but I can’t. The words don’t form.

7. I often tell lots of people about what happened because if I tell them, I know what they know. I am in control of how much information they get. If someone else tells them without realizing they don’t know, I don’t know how much they know or who knows what.

8. I am always happy to talk about my past experiences if you ask direct questions. I will almost never bring it up spontaneously. If you have a question ask, just be prepared for an honest answer.

9. The healing process isn’t simple or easy.

10. I’ve had to make decisions in my life I haven’t always wanted to stand by, and that sometimes makes me feel weak or like I’ve made the wrong decision (even when I know I haven’t).

11. I often don’t recognize the person that stares back at me in the mirror.

12. Sometimes all I really want is one of those hugs that make you feel safe.

13. Sometimes I don’t want to be touched by anyone, especially if the memories are being too much.

14. There are times when I really am fine.

15. I know how to bounce back. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.

16. I use humor and deflection a lot to hide how I am or avoid answering questions I don’t want to (or to distract you from asking the question in the first place).

17. It really bugs me when you try to say an issue that is unrelated has to do with being raped. I couldn’t sleep before it happened; I still can’t sleep, that hasn’t changed. I had depression before I was raped. I still sometimes struggle with depressive thoughts, that hasn’t changed. I didn’t eat a lot before I was raped. I still don’t always eat enough, that hasn’t changed. Sure, being raped hasn’t helped, but please try not to blame all my problems on it.

18. Being in a sexually abusive relationship isn’t the only bad thing to have happened to me in my life, and sometimes the other stuff is the stuff I want to talk about.

19. My life has a lot of good in it, and I know that. But the “good” doesn’t tend to give me flashbacks, so it’s generally in my mind less.

20. I am not defined by what happened to me.

Follow this journey here.

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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Unsplash image via Lane Jackman

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