Why I Couldn't Talk About My Sexual Assault Until Now
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.
In my 2019 TEDx talk “Relationships After Rape,” I talk about how the trauma of being raped in college affected my life and also offered some advice. I was 18 years old in April 2015 when I was raped. While preparing for the talk, I had thought about including my experience of being sexually assaulted at a young age. I was sexually assaulted when I was 15 years old and there are many factors why I did not have the courage to bring it up in my TEDx talk.
As a woman, I have experienced sexual harassment too many times to count. As I am sure many women have experienced this. I have been able to talk about that and journal about some of the uncomfortable experiences I have had.
Something I have never been able to write about even in my private journal is my sexual assault. I was in denial and blamed myself. I was confused and young when it happened to me. I thought no one would believe me, so I didn’t tell anyone. I also didn’t know how to talk about it and had trouble finding the words. It was a couple of years before I was able to find the words to explain it to myself. Then I was able to tell someone I trusted. I have only told a few trustworthy people, which is very few people.
Sharing information about my sexual assault is much more difficult for me, and these are some reasons why I couldn’t speak about it while giving my TEDx talk:
It was personal; I was sexually assaulted by someone I knew.
I was young at the time. I didn’t completely understand what had happened or how to talk about it.
He manipulated and used me. He made me trust him and then shattered my trust into a million pieces and I am still trying to gather the shards.
I was sober so I remember more details about what he said and did to me. Which makes it more painful to relive.
I didn’t want people who I grew up with nor the people in my small hometown to know or ask who it was.
I was scared people would not believe me if I told them who it was. I still am.
I was groomed and assaulted in a place that was supposed to be safe — then he assaulted me.
Immediately afterward I felt betrayed, disgusting, humiliated, used, stupid, confused, sad, scared, ashamed… alone.
It was my first sexual encounter of any kind which made it even more confusing for me as a 15-year-old girl. Which changed my entire outlook on sex, trust, and boys.
I was able to leave my body during most of my rape, but not my sexual assault.
I get triggered very easily when I visit my hometown because of my sexual assault.
Seeing or hearing about him and his family was very difficult for me and continues to be.
I still have nightmares about the assault 10 years later. I have nightmares about being manipulated and used. What it would be like to tell people from my hometown who it was and how I would confront him.
Afterwards, I was never the same and forever traumatized.
This is the first time I have been able to journal and write any of it out. It is healing in an unexpected way and healing is not always easy. I am trying to heal from what he and other people have done to me and how they have treated me. I have been trying to build trust in people and grow relationships. I have lost a lot of relationships and started more. I have been trying to learn how to live for myself and in the present instead of the past. It is not easy.
Therapy is very helpful but can be challenging at times, and I think it is supposed to be. Healing is an up and down journey for everyone. I have learned that I have to be persistent with my healing even when I don’t want to be. I have to try to be strong and not give in to the trauma, pain, and negative self-talk. I have learned that I have to believe in myself, validate myself so I can love and respect myself — especially my body.
On this journey to healing, I have most importantly learned that I can never be the person I was before the trauma and have to be the person I want to be. I try to be a better person than I was the day before, which includes taking care of myself, not just others.
I do not want to be his victim. I am a survivor and I would like to eventually see myself as a free woman.
You truly have to take it one moment at a time.
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