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When Your Style Changes After a Sexual Assault

“Today my professor told me every cell in our entire body is destroyed and replaced every seven years. How comforting it is to know one day I will have a body you will have never touched.” — Unknown

As I pull on the floor length black skirt and plain white shirt, I look at myself in the mirror and notice how similar I look to a Catholic nun. Working at a Catholic school myself, I know the children I teach will point this out, the way they have a million times before. And like a million times before, I will smile uncomfortably and shrug it off all the while thinking on the inside, “This is good. No one will touch me if I look like this.”

I don’t know if I really believe this, but it gives me comfort. As a sexual assault survivor many times over, I have a tendency to blame myself for the incidents that took place and pick at my self-image as an unhealthy way to justify the assaults.

If anyone dared to suggest that a person’s clothing was responsible for an attack or that they were somehow “asking for it” I would be outraged. Sexual assault is never OK no matter what. It is never the survivor’s fault and they are not responsible for somebody else’s actions. I have been outraged by this with others. So why, then, do I not hold this same standard for myself?

I threw out almost every pair of pants I own and every top that did not come with at least cap sleeves. No neck line under the collar bone. I no longer wear leggings. I tell myself if I dress “modestly” in layered skirts and dresses I will be safe. Plain, drab and secure. I bend over in front of a mirror and check to make sure no one can see anything. Perhaps, this is my way of coping right now. Perhaps the memory of my assaults has taken away more than I realized.

I won’t wear pants because, what if someone is staring at my butt?

What if they are planning to touch me?

What if I will never really be free from my own questions?

I know these thoughts are unrealistic but it doesn’t change my wardrobe selections.

I hope that one day, it will. I hope one day I will be able to put on skinny jeans or leggings without having an anxiety attack. I hope one day I can dress like the young 20-something woman that I am. I hope one day I will forget the ways in which I was violated. I hope one day I can embrace my body instead of closing my eyes when I shower. I hope one day, I won’t have to dress like a Catholic nun. But for right now, I do because that’s how I feel in control of my body.

Can you relate? Let Brittni know in the comments below.

Getty image via Oleksii Dubrovskyi