24 Mighty Stories You Need to Read If You’ve Experienced Sexual Violence
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’m a victim of childhood sexual abuse. At least, I think I am — I can’t verify it, though I know the same man also abused others, and I have visceral memories that tell an incomplete but frightening story. I wish I could say I was the only one I knew who experienced sexual violence, but the horrifying reality is that, according to RAINN.org, an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds. Every nine minutes, that victim is a child. Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’ve either experienced sexual violence yourself or you know somebody who has.
When it comes to understanding sexual violence, there are a lot of ways it impacts people at every stage of the journey. And, while it’s hardly as clear and linear as “before, during, and after trauma recovery,” we thought it would be helpful to compile some of our best articles walking you through every stage of trauma due to sexual violence. So, if you’re looking for information on types of sexual violence, trauma therapy, doubting the validity of your experience, exploring intimacy after sexual violence, or just looking for some hope that recovery is possible, I hope you can find what you need here.
Types of Sexual Violence
“Rape is not sex. Sex is not a trigger for me because what my rapist did to me was not sex.” — Ashley Zaccaro
Childhood Sexual Abuse
“How Old You Were When You Experienced Trauma Matters – Here’s Why” by Sarah Schuster — If you experienced childhood sexual abuse, you might wonder why it seems to impact every little thing that you do. In this explainer, Mighty editor Sarah Schuster explains why the age you experienced trauma affects how you are able to cope and recover.
“20 Things You Do as an Adult When You’ve Experienced Childhood Sexual Abuse” by Juliette V. — Speaking of which, we asked our community for the ways childhood sexual abuse affected them into adulthood. Hopefully, this will help you to feel a little less alone.
“Let’s Talk Trauma: Why Do Some People Doubt Their Own Experience of Childhood Trauma?” by Vicki Peterson — Uncovering memories of sexual abuse can be terrifying. If you’re experiencing this right now, then we hope this story from trauma coach Vicki Peterson will help you understand the confusion and self-doubt that can arise.
“Am I a Victim or a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse?” by Erin Konrad — It can be hard to decide if you’re a “victim” or a “survivor” of sexual abuse. Ultimately, it’s personal choice. You may not feel like a survivor until you start to heal, and that’s OK. No matter what, though, you’re strong and you will survive this, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re a survivor right now.
“I Didn’t Know I Was Sexually Assaulted” by Serene Helton — Often, sexual assault survivors don’t immediately realize that they were assaulted due to societal expectations, misconceptions, or even not trusting their own memory. If you aren’t sure or weren’t sure about your assault, then this piece is for you.
“17 Things People Don’t Realize You’re Doing Because You Were Sexually Assaulted” by Juliette V. — You might be surprised by the little things you do because you were sexually assaulted. Sexual assault affects people mentally and physically. We asked our community how it affects them, and they answered.
“12 Reminders for Sexual Assault Survivors” by Elizabeth Pidgeon — If you experienced sexual assault, there are a number of core things to remember about who you are and what it means for you. Read this list, memorize it, and read it again any time that doubt begins to creep in.
“The Truths I’ve Come to Notice in the Aftermath of Rape” by Summer Collins — After experiencing sexual assault, you might find it hard to navigate the changes to your life. In this piece, Summer Collins describes the little truths she has noticed from the inability to trust to becoming possessive over her things.
Healing From Sexual Violence Can Be Messy
“Sometimes, I come to terms with thinking I was raped, but then I wonder: ‘what if maybe I did give some indication that I was OK with sex?'” — Clare McKenna
Doubting Your Experience Is Valid
“Your Sexual Assault Still ‘Counts’ Even If You Weren’t Physically Forced” by Haley West — Society often believes sexual assault to look a certain way, but sexual violence is still violence even if it doesn’t look that way. If you don’t believe your sexual assault experience “counts,” then this article is for you.
“After My Sexual Assault, I Learned the ‘Fight or Flight’ Response Had a Third Option” by Caitlin W. — Trauma responses go beyond the “fight” and “flight” we often hear about. If you froze during your sexual assault, then you aren’t alone; it’s another way your mind tried to protect you. This story from Caitlin W. explains what this means.
“It’s Not Your Place to Decide If My Sexual Assault Was ‘Anything Big’” by Caitlin Collins — Do you find yourself minimizing your experience, or find that others do? Sexual assault is about a lack of consent, and no matter what that means, it’s important to remember that it still “counts” as sexual assault if it was unwanted, no matter what happened. If this sounds familiar, then this is for you.
“Why I Struggle to Think of My ‘Nonconsensual Sexual Experience’ as Rape” by Clare McKenna — If you’re in a “gray area” of understanding if your experience counts as rape just like contributor Clare McKenna, then you’re not alone.
“A Therapist’s Guide to Understanding Trauma Therapy” by Antonieta Contreras — This guide from trauma therapist Antonieta Contreras tells you everything you need to know about trauma therapy as a whole.
“What to Expect From EMDR Therapy for Processing Trauma” by Sarah Grayson — EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is a type of trauma therapy that has seen much success. It might sound a little bit like magic, but quite often, it just works. Here, Sarah Grayson breaks it down a little.
“You Might Not Connect With the ‘Most Successful’ Type of Trauma Therapy, and That’s OK” by Amelia Blackwater — However, as with any type of therapy, sometimes it might just not be for you, and that’s OK. Even the most successful trauma therapy like EMDR doesn’t always fit the person. If that sounds like you, or if you’re worried about it, then this article is for you.
“10 Tools for Trauma Survivors Asking ‘How Do I Get Help?’” by Vicki Peterson — If you feel ready to get help for your sexual trauma but don’t know where to start, then this article from trauma coach Vicki Peterson breaks everything down into easy-to-digest pieces.
Healing Is Possible After Sexual Violence
“Acknowledging that trauma as valid is often the first step on a long but ultimately liberating journey of recovery.” — Vicki Peterson
Intimacy After Sexual Violence
“What to Know About Intimacy After Experiencing Sexual Assault” by Sarah VanHouten — Sarah VanHouten shares her experience with intimacy after two sexual assaults, explaining how an understanding partner goes a long way.
“How I Learned to Have Sex After Losing My Virginity to Rape” by Ashley Zaccaro — In this story, Ashley Zaccaro shares everything she did to learn to have sex after losing her virginity to rape, including the self-help book she used to work through it with her partner. She takes us through every step of her experience to, eventually, the state of being able to have an intimate relationship.
“5 Things That Can Make Sex Better (Or at Least More Tolerable) For Sexual Assault Survivors” by Monika Sudakov — Here, Monika Sudakov offers some practical ways she and her husband navigate sexual intimacy while she is in recovery from childhood sexual abuse.
“How PTSD Can Affect Sex (And What to Do About It)” by Max Harvey, Ph.D. — It’s a fact that your trauma might affect your reaction to intimate moments, so it’s important to know what to do if it happens. Here, Max Harvey explains their own experience with PTSD affecting sex and what to do about it.
Reminders That Healing Is Possible
“How Pole Dancing Lessons Helped Me Heal From Sexual Assault” by Sarah Ross — We can find healing in all sorts of unexpected ways. In this article, Sarah Ross explains how pole dancing lessons helped her rediscover her self-confidence and helped her love her body again.
“3 Truths I Had to Believe Before I Could Recover From Childhood Sexual Abuse” by Mr. Antares — After experiencing childhood sexual abuse, Antares shares the three truths he had to believe before he could truly recover from his trauma.
“Holding Broken Glass to Light: How EMDR Helped Me Face My Trauma” by LKR — In an EMDR success story, this Mighty contributor shares how this type of trauma therapy gave them hope for recovery and understanding.
“6 Reminders That Healing After Sexual Violence Is Possible (and 6 More Messages of Support)” by The Mighty Community — In our newest collection of reminders, we asked the Mighty community for the messages of hope they want others living with sexual trauma to know. Their messages are beautiful and affirming.
No matter where you are in your trauma recovery journey, we at The Mighty want you to know that you deserve to live a fulfilling, happy life after experiencing sexual violence. We hope you’ll find these articles helpful, and we hope you’ll share your story with us if you feel comfortable doing so.