This is a story that shouldn’t exist.
Words about someone who lived with silence, shame, guilt and hidden pain for years.
It is another blog post that seems increasingly popular and increasingly hard to wrap our heads around.
This is another blog post about sexual assault. These words are another story that shouldn’t exist but are the unfortunate reality for thousands of people. It is a disheartening story of someone coming out about assault that was kept hidden for years. It is about a story of confusion, shame, guilt but ultimately it is a story of healing, redemption and grace.
This is my story. I didn’t choose this story, who would?
But I have the choice to keep it hidden or use it to move mountains. I have the power to allow what was intended for to evil to be used for good. I believe that we were created for connection, for telling our stories and for using our tales for the good and hope of others.
Here is my story, it’s our story now.
When I was in high school, I was sexually assaulted and it changed everything. But I didn’t tell a soul. I didn’t tell my parents, my sister, my youth leaders, my favorite teachers. I struggled with an eating disorder, I started to struggle even more in school but I buried it deeper and deeper.
For a long time, I struggled with whether I could even label it sexual assault. It was “my fault”, after all. I should have said “no” louder, I should have objected more adamantly, put up more of a fight than I did. Maybe if I hadn’t been wearing a bathing suit? The thoughts of what I should have done differently raced through my mind for years. (Side note: No matter how persistent these thoughts are, they are all ludicrous. I was not sexually assaulted because of my bathing suit or any other irrelevant factor, I was sexually assaulted because someone sexually assaulted me.)
It took me years to admit the truth. I was underage and he was not. I said no, I tried to pull away, I tried to protect myself in the only ways I knew how and he ignored that. He ignored my cues, he ignored my tears, he ignored my saying no. I was sexually assaulted and it was not my fault.
It was well into college before I admitted what had happened and still a few more years until I decided to heal, before I even felt I had the courage to heal. I had had a number of relationships and each time when it got to a serious point, I decided it was easier to walk away from the relationship than walk through the assault. When faced with the choice, it was always easier to abandon than to heal.
Then I met the man who will soon become my husband. He was my best friend and then my boyfriend and when I realized he would soon become my fiancé, it killed me to think I could lose him. In the decision to heal or to walk away from Steve, I chose to address and overcome the effects that this assault still had over me, all these years later. When I first decided to go to counseling, I SWORE I would heal silently, only telling the people that absolutely had to know. Over the months that have passed since then, I realize how powerfully our stories can impact one another. I do not believe God causes our pain but He certainly doesn’t waste it. I have decided to let Him use every part of me, even the parts I desperately try to keep hidden.
I am still in the midst of healing but I am sharing my story because it was the sharing of another survivor’s story that motivated me to continue this path when I wanted desperately to give up. It was a simple moment of connection, vulnerability, raw honesty and understanding that drove me to continue to fight. Throughout my life and the journey of healing, I saw a number of counselors and I hated them all. Until I met one influential counselor, I had no hope of therapy helping me. In my first session with this counselor she looked at me and said, “I was sexually assaulted too.” That solidified my hope that maybe this one could help and that healing is possible.
After a month of seeing her, I wanted to hug her and say, “THANK YOU for courageously making the decision to follow through with the journey of healing.” Her decision to heal and then her subsequent decision to share and to help has ignited hope in me and I’m sure countless other survivors. I want to do the same with my own life, my own story and my own decision to heal. A big part of me believes that we all belong to each other. Aside from just survivors of sexual assault, we belong to each other and our decisions to heal, overcome and fight could be the story that encourages another to do the same.
It starts with that first decision. To walk on the road of healing, of overcoming, of fighting to be healthy and whole. That road is long and hard and genuinely pretty shitty but it is one we should never walk alone. If you resonate with these words at all, I will tell you what helped me immensely:
I was sexually assaulted too. I believe you and I’m here. Make that first step, that first decision. Sexual assault changes everything but so does healing. So does forgiveness. So does grace.
When I was in high school, I was sexually assaulted and it changed everything.
When I was 21, I decided to heal and that changed everything too.