Disclaimer: The name in the following article has been changed to protect myself from others that are involved in this post.
Most of you know my story and the years after that happened to someone can really open their eyes and teach them new things, so I thought I’d share some lessons that I learned from telling my story and the repercussions of doing so. I tried to stick with universal things that I know myself and a couple other survivors have had issues with after the assault happened that way it can be relatable to multiple survivors at some point.
No One is Who You Think They Are.
Now when I say this, I’m talking about friends that you grow up with for the majority of your life then all of a sudden betray you and don’t believe you when you try to tell them your side of the story. I had a couple of my “friends” that decided that I was lying and that he couldn’t ever do that. These were friends that I had known since Pre-School that believed that I was lying and he was innocent. When you start to tell people about your story, and are open about your experience – people always jump to take sides instead of listening to the full story especially when they know the individual that rapes you. You learn pretty fast who your Real Friends when it comes something like going through being a high schooler and being raped. I never thought I’d learn it that young nor lose the friends that I did.
You Lose Part of Yourself During and After the Assault.
When the assault was happening, I felt like I was experiencing an “out-of-the-body” experience. I felt like I was floating over my body and could see him holding the knife to my throat, and having his way with me. That was the moment that I was never going to be Clarisse Shields, the girl that was called Four-Eyes, Innocent, Beautiful, or Flawless again. After that day in August, I was someone else but I had no clue who I was other than an empty shell of a Sophomore girl. I felt numb, raw and exposed to everything around me after that. Those next several days, weeks, months and years – I spent re-discovering myself and who I really was after all that had happened. That was only after months of therapy that I could actually see a light at the end of the tunnel. However, I still feel as if I’m still discovering myself at least trying to feel comfortable again in my own skin. Some things will never be the same, but I’m determined to see myself as Beautiful, Flawless, Strong and a Role-Model for other Survivors.
Don’t Wait to Tell Anyone
I made the biggest mistake, next to allowing him to do that to me…..I waited a whole month before telling my mom, and when it came time to tell her…there were misunderstandings. You may wonder why I waited a month, which I don’t blame you for wondering. The reason I waited was because I was ashamed. I was ashamed and didn’t want people to call me a slut, whore or just tell me to give in to him because he was my boyfriend, my very first boyfriend. I knew people would tell me that I should have just given him what he wanted, because that’s what High Schoolers do. High School was all about peer pressure, especially for girls. If you weren’t pleasing your boyfriend, he would dump you was what most of the girls thought – so of course I didn’t want to be one of those girls, but I also never wanted to be raped. So yes, I waited to tell anyone and kept it to myself for a month. I regret waiting the month now as I look back, and wish if I could go back – I would tell my parents and maybe then the verdict would have came out different than it did.
Since I did decide to wait to tell anyone, and I washed my pants, underwear and showered right after that day – I had no evidence that he raped me aside from the Futon Bed that the assault occurred on and the fact that a month later I was pregnant. Since no evidence – there was no trial or sentencing, other then the fact that he spent 3 days in jail.
If you have been sexually assaulted, don’t wait to tell anyone. Yes, there will always be judgmental people you know, but you deserve the support and option to charge that individual if you choose to do so.
Go to Therapy and Heal
If you read this and take anything away from this article, take away this. Whether you have recently been raped or sexually assaulted in any way, or it’s been years since it happened – take the time to meet with a Therapist and start your healing process. Now I know how hard it is to find the right Therapist, but I went to two different Therapists before I found the one I clicked with. I also know that you may not think right now you aren’t having issues with assault, or that you’ve pushed it to the back of your mind, but that is not a healthy way to live your life. On top of the recent issues in social media, I know that I’ve had to go back to therapy recently this last month and you know what? That’s okay because we deserve to feel like ourselves again, we deserve to feel loved, and love ourselves. I started going to therapy right after I told my mom what happened, and over the years, I’ve gone back for different reasons. The first time I went – I went to heal any triggers or emotions that came when I remembered the assault. The second time I went – it was to discuss why I felt out-of-control and helpless. This last month I went back to start feeling and seeing myself as beautiful inside and out. No matter what the reason is for, or how long it’s been – we owe it to ourselves to take care of ourselves especially after something that can be really traumatic for us.
The Relationships After the Assault Can be Difficult
I don’t know if this is just an issue for me, but I have trouble and second-thoughts about things I do with my romantic partners. The boyfriend I had after the assault was easily irritated over the fact that he couldn’t do certain things with me due to my triggers from the first boyfriend. Since he would get easily irritated about my triggers, I would constantly second-guess myself and shove my triggers and emotions in the back of my mind. It’s never easy for the survivor or the boyfriend/girlfriend of the survivor when it comes to triggers or certain things that can bring up memories. For the survivor, it’s like a constant worry you have when it comes to a new relationship, and you never know when to bring it up to the other person. As for the boyfriend/girlfriend of the survivor, they already have things to learn about you when it comes to dating, let alone learning about triggers you have like; no one can hug you behind your back or else you freeze and start freaking out. I’m not saying all relationships are like, but until you find a good, patient and understanding person to date – it can be like that. The relationship I’m currently in, the individual is really patient, empathetic and understanding when it comes to me having anxiety attacks, getting in my depressed moods, the anniversary of the assault comes around, or any of my triggers set me off – he makes sure I am okay, he understands and doesn’t expect anything more or less of me in those moments. At first, it may seem difficult to have a romantic relationship with an individual, but I promise it does get better over time, especially when you find someone who is patient and understanding.
Trusting People After the Fact doesn’t Come Easy
For me, I know one of the biggest issues I’ve still have yet to get over is learning to trust people again. After losing the people you thought were your friends, being betrayed by the individual you were dating or acquainted with, and all the other consequences after telling people your story – it’s difficult to trust anyone. Aside from family in my situation and a couple close friends, I didn’t trust any one, especially not any guys. I know several individuals that I am friends with that are of both sex, but I wouldn’t trust them with my story, or being alone with them or telling them anything. Some day I hope that my ability to trust others will grow, but until then I’ll stick with the individuals that I trust with my life.
You Question The Decisions You Make
In the past years, I’ve seriously questioned some of the decisions I’ve made such as; when I was younger I would talk with men that were at least 5 years older than me, I’d go on chat websites just looking for some guy to talk to, or I’d even give some individuals my phone number. When I look back at some of those choices I made after the assault, I realized how naive, needy and let my happiness be dependent on having a man giving me attention. I’m definitely not happy with the decision I made back then, but I have grown out of that phase of not being myself. However, I still question decisions such as; whether or not I feel like I have a good taste in men since I’ve had pretty bad relationships in the past based on peoples comments about the current relationship I am in. Most of the time I just shut those people out, and take a mental note of their opinion and move on about the matter. Over the years of making good or bad decisions, ultimately you have to do what makes you happy and you can’t concern yourself with what others think about where you are at or who you are.
I Am Stronger, Fearless, More Sympathetic and Empathetic, Cherished and I Am Loved.
Since I have had 7 and 1/2 years to re-discover myself, heal and learn to love myself again – I have seen and felt a huge difference in my perception and identification of myself. I may still be working on seeing myself as Beautiful and Flawless inside and out right now, but I do know and feel Powerful, Strong and Fearless due to my past experiences before and after the assault. I became Stronger and Fearless when I realized he had no more power or control over me. I saw myself as more Sympathetic and Empathetic when I was able to meet other individuals after my assault, that had gone through similar situations, and that I could give them the same support and guidance that I had from my family and close friends and members of WASAC. I am Cherished and Loved by my friends that remained my friends after the assault, and the ones that I met in College. I am also Cherished and Loved by my family and loved ones because they gave me the support, unconditional love, guidance, late night talks and hugs when I needed them or I needed to cry. I am all of these things because my friends and family have helped me grow to be the Strong, Independent, Intelligent, Loved, Kind, and Powerful woman that I am today.
I am all of these things and more.
Excerpt from my poem, “See The Real Me”
From the ashes, as I arise as the Phoenix,
I am reborn.
A better, stronger me.
From The Ashes,
The Rising Phoenix