Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Life after Sexual Abuse


**TRIGGER WARNING** This post talks about assault/rape.


I didn't watch the Oscars. I didn't even really hear much about the Oscars. What I did hear, though, was that Lady Gaga's performance was amazing. Her song Til It Happens To You is about sexual assault, and she drove her point home by having tons of survivors of sexual assault and abuse stand up on stage with her. Proceeds from sales from the song are going to organizations that help prevent abuse and support survivors. I watched the music video for the song and it was pretty hard to watch. I love that so many people are talking about this right now. We need to stop brushing things like this under the table and making people who are suffering feel like they need to keep quiet about it. The shame and guilt is something we need to address and fix, not let fester quietly until it becomes worse. Let's start out with some facts:

(Facts are from RAINN, USA Today, and a study by the AAU)

--23.1% of women in college will be assaulted. 5.4% of men as well.

--1 in 6 American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape, and about 3% of men.

--Indian women and women of mixed race are more likely to be victims.

--A new sexual assault occurs every 107 seconds

--4 out of 5 attackers are someone the victim knows

--80% of victims are under the age of 30

--15% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 12.

--68% of sexual assaults are NOT reported to the police

--98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail


I could go on all day about these horrifying statistics. And I want to point out that in this study, transgender individuals were not included (1 in 2 transgender individuals are assaulted in their lifetime). More than half are not reported to police!! Why is this? There are a couple of factors. One is that a lot of women feel guilt or shame attached to the attack. There are a lot of 'what if' questions that float around a victim's head. "What if I hadn't dressed that way?" "what if I hadn't led him on?" "what if I hadn't drank so much?" A lot of times, a victim doesn't realize that they have, in fact, been assaulted/raped. People don't want to admit they've been a victim, so they try to rationalize it in their heads. A lot of people just want to distance themselves from the situation. If they go to the police, they'll be in the spotlight. They'll have to answer questions and may see their attacker again. A lot of people still try to place blame on the victim rather than the abuser, and who wants to go through that again??

Let's make something clear here-- It wasn't your fault. That's the hardest thing to get over. The hardest thing is to prove to yourself that you didn't do anything wrong to deserve this. We've all heard those silly excuses of, "well, she was asking for it, look how she was dressed," or "she shouldn't have drank so much." Well, if 4 out of 5 assaults are caused by someone the victim knows, how does the way they're dressed have anything to do with it? You're telling me that someone has seen this woman around wearing very modest clothes and the one time they see her with less, they have to have her? Ridiculous.

As far as alcohol goes, assault is a tricky thing. Here's a good rule of thumb if you are going to hook up with someone--if one or both of you is a little too drunk, maybe save the fun for another time. The last thing you need is to wake up in the morning thinking you had a great time while the girl feels used and abused. If someone can't consent, don't touch them. And as always, NO MEANS NO.

No means no the first time. It means it the second time. No even means no after someone says yes. If someone says, yes, let's have sex, and then in the middle of sex says, 'no, I don't want to do this anymore' the yes doesn't override that no. If someone says NO or STOP, you STOP.

Assault is such a hard thing. I remember when I realized that I had been assaulted. It hurt. I questioned my own role in the situation. I kept thinking that I had done something to make it happen, that I had put myself in a compromising situation. That I didn't say 'no' with enough seriousness, that I was too passive. Well you know what? That's bullshit. The men who touched me shouldn't have. I've never gone up to someone and touched them in a private spot without their express permission. And when I told them I didn't like it, they should have stopped, regardless of what had happened before that moment.

So, you've been assaulted. What now? How do you move on from something like this?

Well, the first step is going to be facing the attack head on. In order to move on from what happened, you are going to need to accept it. Realize that the attack happened and that you couldn't have stopped it. Your attacker is the one in the wrong--not you. Decide if you want to get the police or other authorities involved.

Realize what it is that you want from sex. If you are in a relationship or not, is sex something you want to keep having right now? Maybe you need some time away from it to figure out what you want and need. Communication is always key, but especially in a situation like this. Not communicating with your partner about what you want may cause an episode that triggers past memories. If being touched in a certain way makes you uneasy, get that point across to your partner.

Treat yo'self. Seriously. Get your hair or nails done. Buy some new makeup or clothes. Self esteem can practically go down the drain after something like this, and you may feel gross or unattractive. Pamper yourself and show yourself how good you can feel. Get to know your body, just for you. Masturbation is a good idea. Someone took something from you without your permission, but it's still yours. Reclaim it. Touch yourself the way YOU like to be touched.

Take things slow. Maybe you don't want to be touched for months after something like this. Maybe sex isn't even on your radar right now, and that's okay. Get yourself into therapy. There are tons of options out there. Look up places that offer payment plans or sliding scale options. Go to the clinic or therapy office on campus. Talk to a counselor. Don't keep this to yourself. Get it out in the open. Again, you shouldn't feel ashamed--your attacker should. Don't go for revenge or go crazy telling everyone you meet about the situation, but don't hide it either. Even if you just tell a therapist and no one else, it is better than keeping it locked inside to suffer with. It sucks, it's awful. You'll think about it and question the situation for years to come. But you are stronger than what happened to you.

Take it slow and relearn who you are and what you want. Sex is a part of life, and just because some jerk tried to ruin it for you doesn't mean you should let them. Don't let someone with a non-existent moral compass decide that sex should feel wrong. Reclaim your sexuality. Take advantage of the resources out there. The one good thing about these statistics is that they should make us all realize we are not alone. Over 17 million American women have gone through a similar situation as you, and you are all survivors.

Like Lady Gaga said, "We don't want you to keep your pain inside and let it rot like an old apple on your counter, you know? It's like, just get rid of all that trash. Let's get rid of it together."


If you or someone you know is suffering and needs help, call the RAINN sexual assault hotline or go to online.rainn.org
800.656.HOPE (4673) 

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