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How Pole Dancing Lessons Helped Me Heal From Sexual Assault

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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.

A few years ago, I went through what no person ever wants to go through, but unfortunately is something a lot of people endure: sexual assault. It didn’t happen like it does in movies, and honestly, if I look back on it, it actually feels surreal. It took a long time for me to process what happened, it wasn’t instant for me. I didn’t go home later and break down, it took about six to seven months before it sunk in. I pushed that memory so far down so quickly that it took a long time for me to openly admit it happened.

Once I did, though, I lost all self-confidence, I felt dirty and I hated myself for not seeing it coming and not reacting how I thought I would. I refused to go on dates, I even refused to talk about sex with anyone. I had disassociated with myself, and I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror. I thought I was never going to overcome it, that the person who did it robbed me of my dignity. I could feel myself getting stuck in this never-ending circle of just reliving the memory and hating myself more. So, I thought of trying something new to get myself out the house to see if it would build up my self-confidence.

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Pole dancing is something I’d always wanted to try, but never had the courage to. I always thought the way people would pull off tricks on the pole and do a freestyle dance was incredible because you need so much strength and confidence to do it. I found a studio online that had amazing reviews and just threw myself into it before I’d start overthinking it too much. The feeling I had after my first class was indescribable, I knew I had to keep coming back. And I did. Every class I took, I could feel my self-confidence growing, the encouragement and support I got from my trainers and other people in class was pushing me to keep going. Each time I succeeded in something new was another triumph for me, I felt on top of the world. 

But best of all, I fell in love with my body again. I no longer felt dirty, I no longer hated myself, I no longer felt the need to hide away from people and feel ashamed. I had this new kind of love for myself that was so strong it made me look at what happened to me in a new light. It made me realize I am able to overcome such an awful memory and still live my life. It made me realize I wouldn’t let it ruin me. Instead, I’d let it make me stronger.

Unfortunately, there’s still a large stigma around pole, and I think it’s ridiculous. There isn’t any other thing in this world that has built my self-confidence the way pole lessons have. I’ve found that you just get so lost in what you’re doing, it takes you to a different place mentally. I learned how to love every part of myself because of pole. I learned how to let go of anything that was plaguing my mind every time I would grab hold of a pole at the start of a lesson. The atmosphere being around such supportive people all enjoying the same thing and all encouraging each other was so uplifting.

The best part, though? I learned how to love myself again, and it feels amazing.

Original photo by author

Originally published: December 22, 2020
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