Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who should I tell about my assault?

I started my blog in September 2011 shortly after I acknowledged that my past was still very much a part of my present life. My therapist whom I had been seeing for almost two years at that point knew that I had been sexually assaulted and had not received adequate professional and parental support following my assault, but she only knew the most basic gist because I refused to talk about it, insisting that I had dealt with it.

Now that I go back through my past events and really, truly look at them for the first time, it is amazing to me that I did not realize how much of my struggles with anxiety, depression, a fragmented sense of self, and low self-esteem were due to unresolved issues of the past. But then again, going back and looking at my past is also allowing me to understand why I leaned so heavily toward denial.

It wasn't that I had never attempted to open up about what had happened and the pain it had caused - that wasn't the case at all. I guess it had more to do with the fact that I had not opened up to the right people.

Knowing who the right people are to tell your story isn't exactly straightforward, particularly given the state of mind you are in following a traumatic event, such as sexual assault. You likely already feel horribly about yourself, and in this state of mind, it is often easier to accept negative feedback from others than positive feedback.

On top of that, unfortunately, the people with all the "right" labels - parents, psychiatrists, school officials - are not always the "right" people to tell. In fact, these people can actually be the most damaging people to tell because we expect that they are equipped to help us when we are most in need of support.

You may be asking, "well, then who are the 'right' people to tell?" Fortunately, the answer to this question is straightforward - people who will listen to your story with compassion and validate your pain and experience (i.e., not those who criticize you for "making a big deal out of nothing").

Perhaps others may honestly think that minimizing your experience will help you get through it, or perhaps they are minimizing your experience due to issues of their own. Regardless of their motivation, people who invalidate your experience are not the individuals who are going to help support you in the ways that you need in order to get through the pain and put it behind you.

In the words of Buddha, "Our wounds and sorrows are healed only when we touch them with compassion." We need to tell our stories to caring, compassionate people who are capable of truly listening. If you have been assaulted, make sure you keep searching for individuals who can provide you the support you need and deserve.

Since beginning my healing journey, I have made an effort to be really picky regarding whom I share my story. I know first hand how harmful invalidating comments can be in overcoming sexual assault, and I am determined to do it "right" this time. It is strange that very few people in my "real life" know that I have been tackling past issues, but I know that it is important to protect myself when exposing such deep wounds.

Luckily, I have a wonderful rapport with my current therapist, and though I still hesitate whenever I bring up topics that expose my vulnerability, I am growing increasingly more comfortable doing so because I am met with validation each and every time. My emotions do matter. The more I validate my pain, the more I am able to let it go. Hallelujah!

Thank you to all of my readers for following me on my healing journey. Whether you are a regular reader, frequent commenter, or someone just passing through, by bearing witness and listening to my story, you help bring me closer to acceptance.

Like in the comic below, I do not know how many layers of pain, or "salads", I will have to go through to get to the dessert, but I really appreciate you coming along for the ride.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Published on July 28, 2011 by Donna Barstow in Ink Blots Cartoons

11 comments:

  1. I am glad that you do have a good rapport with you t. When you are ready dear to share the whole story with your t. you will know. You are right, it is so true the ones that will validate you are the ones that will listen. Hugs to you.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support, JBR. I really appreciate it. Hope you are well! xx

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  2. Hugs to you dear and thank you for your kind comments to me on my blog. You are special. Blessings and hugs.

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    1. You are very welcome! Hope you are having a nice day so far! xx

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  3. i love this post. thanks for sharing your story. i intend to cozy up with a light blanket one day and read more. you are brave to write and heal. it is a process but i for one will be cheering you on your journey.

    many miles ago i began mine...this forum, blogger, has been a true god-send. friends who i have never met have brought me great comfort. may you have the same.

    i wanted to say particularly that your post here reminded me of something i learned in 12 step program. there is a reason the windshield of the car is much larger than the rear-view mirror. what is MOST important is what is ahead...not what you leave behind.

    many safe (((hugs))) on your way.

    mile 191

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    1. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and offering your kind words and support.

      "There is a reason the windshield of the car is much larger than the rear-view mirror. what is MOST important is what is ahead...not what you leave behind." LOVE this! Thank you for sharing it. I will keep this in mind as I continue to move forward. xx

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  4. Having had bad experiences when disclosing, as recent as march, I totally get the need to be discerning. The most awkward disclosure was when a co worker, I work with dv vics, told me she didn't understand how someone you were dating could rape you. This is a professional woman. I had no words.

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    1. Iris, I am so sorry that you had this experience with a coworker. And I bet the sting is still really strong since it was so recent. Even some of my experiences with invalidation from YEARS ago still ring out in my mind during triggering times.

      Anyway, I know you know this, but I'll say it anyway - OF COURSE, YOU CAN BE RAPED BY SOMEONE YOU ARE DATING because the very CORE of rape is CONSENT. Since when did dating lock you into some sort of agreement that you had to consent to everything your boyfriend wanted - particularly sex???

      It's interesting that many of the women who make this argument do not make the same argument regarding other aspects of life (e.g., it's okay to not go along with his movie choice, but you're expected to give him complete access to your body, even when you don't want to?). Makes no sense to me.

      Anyway, enough of my ranting. I am really sorry to hear that you encountered such lack of support from someone you obviously trusted enough to tell. Thinking of you. xxx

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  5. I hope you are well. Lots of hugs and love, along with prayers...
    PS thank you for your encouragement, consolation and support ...

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    1. You are very welcome, and thank YOU for all of your support! xx

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  6. My ex attempted to assault once. He also did other things without my permission. It was the classic cycle of violence. He did something bad...apologized...things were fine. In the case of the rape, he made me believe it was MY fault.

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