When I first realized I wanted to write this blog post (I felt like I needed to, honestly), I hesitated on the title. “Use the term ‘sexual assault’. It’s less…abrasive.” I thought to myself. I took a little time to think about why I immediately responded this way…and I decided something.
I’m hate feeling like I need to walk on eggshells around important topics, or “taboo” issues. Not talking about these things is hurting people. Keeping quiet about difficult topics like this in order to “keep up with the Jones’s” is hurting people.
Silence can be fatal. And I’m not going to beating around the bush with this one anymore.
(I think it’s important to note that sexual assault is a term used for any unwanted sexual contact. Rape is a form of sexual assault. You can read more on that here.)
Since I started my blog almost a year ago, I’ve shared with you things about myself that, at first, I was scared to talk about for fear of being judged, or looked down upon in some way. But since I started sharing those things, I’ve found a greater support system and have had numerous people reach out to me dealing with similar issues who are relieved to feel less alone in their journey. That is why I felt this particular part of my story might be worth sharing with you.
I am a survivor of sexual assault.
This is a piece of my life that I don’t like to talk about, and there are a lot of reasons for that.
It happened just before I graduated high school. A few months after, I started dating someone I had gone to high school with who happened to be in the same friend group as the person who raped me. I would often end up in the same room, in the same car, at the same party with this person. He would spend time with our friends in the home I was living in at the time. I confided in my new boyfriend and asked that he not invite this person over while I was around. Needless to say, he didn’t like this idea.
Throughout the months we dated, I continued to find myself around the person who had raped me. I convinced myself that I just needed to get over it if I wanted things to work out with my new boyfriend and with my new friends. Eventually, and probably not soon enough, I cut ties with these people.
Fast forward to my next serious relationship. Eventually, I told him about what had happened to me. I don’t remember how the topic came up, but I do remember the questions that followed. What we had been doing before it occurred? What part did I play in what had happened? What could I have done differently to avoid the situation all together or to stop him? Why would I call it rape if it wasn’t that violent?
I felt like it was my fault. Again, I had been told that there was so much I could have done. That I shouldn’t have gotten myself in that situation. That I should have been more this, or I should have done less of that. These thoughts ate at me for years.
It wasn’t until I first going to therapy at Utah State several years later that I finally broke free of these destructive thoughts. It wasn’t until that appointment that I was finally told it wasn’t my fault. That it was understandable for someone to be struggling after what I had been through. That it was okay and even good that I had sought help!
It. Wasn’t. My. Fault. It was like a weight that had been dragging me down for over 5 years had finally been lifted. Even reading the words now on my computer screen feels so freeing. To finally forgive myself for something that I shouldn’t have been made to feel guilty for in the first place.
Every now and then, I still find it difficult to leave that guilt in the past. Something I held onto for so long isn’t easily forgotten. But I’m constantly working on forgiving, accepting, loving, and not judging myself.
I want you to know that if you are also a survivor of sexual assault, that it wasn’t your fault. That it’s okay to seek help. And that it’s okay to cut toxic people out of your life. That you are worthy of a happy life. That you deserve to feel safe. In your relationships, in your thoughts. And most importantly, that you are not alone.
9 Online Resources For Survivors of Sexual Assault
10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To Sexual Assault Survivors
10 Things To Know About Sexual Assault, According To A Survivor
You can find me on Instagram @honestlylauren. I would love to connect with you there, to create a support system where people can feel safe to be themselves.