A Survivor Of Sexual Assault: In Her Words Part 4


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As Survivor of Sexual Assault…in her own words (part 4)

As we have closed out Sexual Assault Awareness month, I feel inclined to share my final thoughts on my experiences and perspective. Thank you for opening your hearts and minds to my story, experiences, and healing. Thank you for hearing and seeing me, and being open to learning about what my personal experience with Sexual Violence was like.

As I said in the beginning of my posts, I do not credit my trauma for my strength. I do not say I am grateful for my trauma and the experiences I had afterwards. I am here, I am healing, and I am surviving because I am strong, in spite of the trauma. Every step I have taken towards healing, every decision healthy and unhealthy, or any ways that my trauma brain led my life for as long as it did, is never a representation of my strength. I never should have had to be strong like this. Nobody should. And everything that happens afterwards, does not ever invalidate my strength. I am strong no matter what that surviving looks like for me, and so are you because again, this is not something anyone should ever have to be strong through.

Sexual Violence is incredibly impactful, it is unnecessary, and knowingly or unknowingly, encouraged by our behaviors as a society, community, and within our family units. We have to start speaking out about the real and scary difficulties that come from the way we react and encourage sexual violence. We have to be real about how big of an issue this is. We have to stop being digestible, and we have to stop expecting these conversations to be digestible. I don’t want to minimize my experience to make it easier for our representatives, politicians, our elected state attorneys to talk about to the community or their fellow leaders. They need to understand the gravity of this situation, so they can speak on it appropriately and educate those around them. And the reality is, experiencing sexual violence is indigestible and to try and make it anything else, is harmful.

In speaking with my therapist a few weeks ago, I was sharing how a character in a recent movie I had seen resonated with me. This character had to accept that they had fought for a long time on their own, they lost everyone and everything close to them through a war of sorts, but now they didn’t need to be alone anymore. They had found their “tribe” (this is the verbiage used in the movie, I will use community moving forward) and it was okay to let that part of them that survived on their own go and accept the extended hand of their community, a community of individuals who they shared experiences with.

As I explained how this character resonated with me, I found myself crying. My therapist asked, “what is coming up for you right now?” and the first word I thought of was grief. Initially, this didn’t add up, and I started to explain what I was feeling and as I did so, I realized that this grief wasn’t a grief for the loss of my family, my community, or the “life that could have been”. I was grieving myself, I was grieving the fact that this part of me that protected and helped me through my trauma for so long, was no longer necessary. I had found a community of people who supported me in ways I never had before. I had begun to rely on them for this support, and not entirely consciously, started separating myself from this version of me that was content and desired to be alone. But this came with sorrow too, I love this girl for getting me to the places I am at today, in my healing, life, and work.

I am so grateful for the way that she served me in my time of need. I am sad to see this part of me go, in an unexplainable way. As much as it is a very good thing that I no longer want to only trust myself and protect myself from connection with others, I am still grieving. I am grieving that I had to live so long unsupported and alone. I feel sorrow for that girl, this part of me who fought independently and gave me the opportunity to survive for so long.

I get to live and have the life I dreamed of because of her, and a part of it all feels so wrong to say goodbye to her and tell her she is no longer needed.

This was unexpected and a very new feeling for me. I have done a lot of healing, and said goodbye to a lot of habits or beliefs that were there to help me survive this trauma, and I have never felt any grief like this. This truly felt like the end of a very long chapter, and I think there was a part of me that never thought this day would come.

 When I think about the grief I am feeling about closing this chapter and saying goodbye to this fiercely independent part of myself, I find myself wishing that I could give her a hug and thank her for all she did for me. I will always remember how she helped me. I will always remember how far I have come too. I will celebrate the life I am living, and give respect to the efforts and never ending strength of that girl and hope that she is never needed again. But if she is, I know she will be there for me. She is remarkable, and so am I.

There is a part, whether it is the same as mine, or something entirely different, of ourselves that eventually our healing will lead us to saying goodbye to. We will close that chapter and it may creep up on you too. And I hope I can reassure you that it is okay for you to feel some grief with that! At least I am giving myself permission to feel my grief, and you can do this for yourself too.

I found this poem I would like to share with you in closing.

If you see the girl I used to be, please thank her for me.

We went through some heavy shit together and she never left my side.

If you see her, tell her she saved me. Tell her, when I fell, she broke my fall and I’m standing again, I’m whole again, healing the best way I know how.

Tell her she taught me everything I know.

Tell her I will never, ever, forget her.

If you see the girl I used to be, please let her know, I would not have made it without her.

Tell her, she does not have to carry me anymore.

 Tell her I owe her this life. And I’m going to make her so proud.

~Stephanie Bennett-Henry