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5 Gentle Reminders For Anyone Who's Been Sexually Assaulted on Halloween

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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.

Halloween isn’t all candy, pumpkins, and parties — it has one of the highest sexual assault rates. For people who are assaulted on or close to Halloween, this time of year can feel extra frightening and may cause trauma to resurface. If you’ve been sexually assaulted on Halloween or at a Halloween event, here are five gentle reminders to help you through this difficult time of year.

1. Any way you choose to view Halloween is OK.

Your friends and family may not understand why you might feel reluctant to celebrate Halloween, especially if they don’t know about your assault. If you can no longer attend Halloween parties or hand out candy to trick-or-treaters because of your trauma, then it’s OK to choose not to participate. If you choose to “reclaim Halloween” and go all-out, that’s OK too. Even if you feel misunderstood or invalidated, it’s perfectly fine to stand behind your decisions — keeping yourself safe and working through your trauma is more important than others’ opinions of how you “should” celebrate.

2. Your assault wasn’t your fault.

It doesn’t matter what your costume looked like or how much you had to drink the night you were assaulted — your assault wasn’t your fault. It may feel tempting to blame or criticize yourself for making certain decisions leading up to your assault, but the only one to blame is the perpetrator. Even if others have told you your costume was too revealing that night or used your state of mind to justify what happened to you, that doesn’t put the blame for your assault on your shoulders.

3. Not every Halloween will feel the same for you.

Trauma reactions surrounding difficult anniversaries often vary widely. You may be dreading Halloween because last Halloween was extremely hard for you, but you might not struggle as much this year. Conversely, you may feel frustrated if you feel like you’re healing your relationship with Halloween and those old memories and emotions resurface. If this year is easier than most, breathe a sigh of relief and take pride in making it through. If this year feels more difficult than others, take some time to practice self-care in any way that helps you decompress. No matter what this year feels like for you, you’re coping — and that’s something to feel proud of.

4. It’s OK to need extra support on Halloween.

If you’re struggling with Halloween, it’s OK to seek out support. Confide in a family member or friend you can trust and share your emotions. You don’t need to share any more than you truly want to — you can open up about your assault on your own timeline — but accepting a loved one’s support doesn’t mean you’re failing yourself. If you need more support than your loved ones can provide, reach out to your mental health provider or call a trusted hotline. You may feel like you’re “burdening” others or “ruining Halloween,” but if you’re struggling or in crisis, prioritize your health and safety — you’ll probably be glad you did.

5. You are not alone.

You may feel like you’re the only one who has a trauma-laced relationship with Halloween or like no one else struggles at Halloween events. No matter how alone you feel during this time of year, though, there are so many others who struggle with Halloween and other major holidays for the same reasons you do. Although you may not personally know of anyone who’s been assaulted close to Halloween, it does happen, and empathy and connection may not be as far away as it feels.  If Halloween isn’t so happy for you, you’re far from alone in your emotions and experiences.

Photo by Hikmet Çınar on Unsplash

Originally published: November 1, 2021
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