In honour of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, here’s a letter to those that have experienced sexual assault. It is all the things I wish I could say to you over a hot cup of coffee in a quiet, undiscovered (but somehow accessible?) coffee shop.
I believe you. Every last word. You are not “crazy.” What happened to you is.
It’s not your fault Ever. If you’re a survivor of multiple assaults, not one of them has been your fault. I’m sorry that this has happened to you, no one deserves to go through that, and nothing you did could warrant sexual violence.
You are strong. So fucking strong. Even if you don’t feel strong. The fact that you are reading this, (er uh, sharing with me over fake coffee) makes you strong. Being sexually violated can be devastating, and completely debilitating. Just living through it makes you strong by default.
Your healing process is 100% yours. There is no proper timeframe for recovering from abuse. There is no limit to grief. If you are having trouble doing the things you used to do–are feeling depressed, angry, unfocused, cloudy, confused or indifferent, know that you are healing. You are refuelling. You are resilient–you’re a fucking butterfly-in-the-making, cocooning from violence, preparing to come out beautiful when ready. You will heal as you know best–how you do that (and who you allow to be part of your healing) is entirely up to you. My guess is that any way you do it, you’re doing what you need to to get by.
Flashbacks and anxiety are common. This is a frequent reality for people that have experienced violence. It’s your mind and body’s way of processing your assault(s), of helping you cope. You are not alone, many survivors have flashbacks, anxiety, and/or night-terrors related to their assault. Some techniques that might help you through these feelings include grounding, breathing exercises and calling a crisis line for support.
*This upcoming point is about power-and-control dynamics as they relate to violence. Some people who have experienced violence might find this overwhelming. If so, scroll down a point.*
Sexual assault isn’t about sex, it’s about power. You might feel confused about what’s happened–especially if you’ve been assaulted by a family member, boyfriend (or girlfriend) or spouse. And rightfully so–why would someone who loves you force themselves on you? Were they just extremely horny?
There is a prevalent belief that sexual assault is one person being sexually aroused by another person and then forcing themselves on that person. This is inaccurate: One person is sexually aroused by power, and then forces themselves on that person. Ergo, the person that has been assaulted has nothing to do with the assault,because it was not about them, or their sex appeal, it was about the assaulter’s plight for power.
So, your partner, or family member that has sexually assaulted you did not do so because it is how they express love. They did not do so because you were “looking all beautiful and batted your eyes” at them, or because they just “lost control” because they were so turned on. In fact the opposite is true: They did so because they found a way to gain control over you. This is not your fault. You did nothing to deserve this, nor are you the reason it happened. It happened because that person decided to force themselves on you, because they wanted power.
If you want it, there is support for people that have experienced violence Everyone deals with trauma differently, so you are the best judge of whether or not you want (or are ready/ in a safe enough place for) support.Support comes in different forms, from online forums or phone conversations, to individual counselling, advocacy, or group sessions. I’m in the Ottawa area, so all of my resources are specific to this region, but if you are ready, you can reach out, wherever you are. Calling your local community centre and specifying the type of help you want is a great place to start. If that seems overwhelming, you can try to put down what you’ve experienced on paper, or record yourself if that’s easier, or make art.
If you feel like talking, here’s a list of crisis lines in Ottawa: https://carleton.ca/health/emergencies-and-crisis/emergency-numbers/ ( and here is a list if you prefer to speak in French, or other languages).
And lastly, I wish you kindness and positive people in your journey of healing. I wish you hope. I wish you well-being. That’s what you deserve. ❤