The world we live in is confusing and oftentimes dangerous. Victims of sexual assault know this danger very well. Instances that should never occur seem to happen hourly. My own experience happened with someone I fully trusted, who I cared for in a special and exciting way. I felt that I could trust him as I had on so many other past occasions. One night changed all of this. The feeling of having something done to your body against your will cannot really be explained in words. I have never truly felt back to myself after my experience. It has changed me forever.
After my trauma, I was very alone. My family is extremely religious; they would disown me for losing my virginity before marriage. My college’s counseling center denied me scheduled sessions twice because my situation was too severe for me to receive the right amount of care at the school. I called therapists, but finding help seemed impossible, because of insurance or payment method difficulties. I felt truly alone. I went through one of the darkest times of my life, and I am so thankful to have found people to rely on since. However, I often wish I had had someone to turn to in that dark, lonely period. More than that, I wish I had known what to do after experiencing sexual trauma. Therefore, I have made a list that I hope may help you, if you too are a survivor.
1. Break up with the person who violated you.
He does not deserve to be with you if he feels he has the right to violate you. After my trauma, I still cared for the boyfriend who assaulted me. He was my first, and still feel a connection with him because of this. However, I knew after that night: he was not safe. I had one body, and I had to protect it. I broke up with my assailant, deleted and blocked him from my phone and all social media.
2. Contact the authorities if you feel comfortable doing so.
I know now that I was not my ex-boyfriend’s first victim. Sexual offenders rarely commit just one assault. If you contact the authorities, then you might have the opportunity to stop that person from striking again. Doing this, however, is extremely difficult. It is severely trying on the mind and emotions. Courtrooms often question the legitimacy of the victim’s encounter, causing the victim to question her own experience. If you feel like you cannot handle going through this, and only want to move on, then do not get the authorities involved. The violation I experienced is not one I would wish on anyone. I didn’t know how to exist afterward in a body I no longer felt I owned. But for my own well-being, I knew I could not handle seeing my ex-boyfriend again. I never involved the authorities.
3. Find support
You cannot handle this trauma alone; the weight of it is too heavy for any one person to bear. If you have a family situation like mine, talk to friends. I talked to my closest friends about my trauma, and they give me the strength to live each day moving forward.
There are also emergency and crisis hotlines available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, like the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Use these. They are free. I myself have called more than once, and every person I have spoken has been understanding, empathetic, and non-judgmental.
4. Seek professional mental help
Aside from friends and family, you should see a licensed professional. Whether counselor, therapist or even psychiatrist, talk to someone equipped to treat your mental health. Keeping this experience hidden and untreated will send you spiraling into depression. A professional will give you the advice you need to combat the emotional hurdles of sexual-assault recovery.
5. Seek professional physical help
With the multitude of sexually transmitted infections present today, keeping your body healthy should be a top priority. A doctor can test you not only for STIs but also for pregnancy if you are a woman. If for any reason you have difficulty finding a health provider, such as issues with insurance coverage, you can visit a Planned Parenthood for services at reduced--and sometimes even free--prices.
Seeing a doctor will not only help your bodily health but also your mental health. There’s no need to add the stress of a missed period or unusual symptoms to the emotional turmoil you are already facing. By eliminating all possible health complications, you will allow yourself to focus on the challenge ahead of you: recovering.
6. Remember you are not alone
After an assault, you may feel uncomfortable in your own body; you may wish your conscious could inhabit a different shell, or that you could be someone else. But it is actually likely that someone you know has also dealt with sexual trauma, even if he or she has chosen not to disclose this information. More importantly, with the right help, many who endure assault go on to live happy, fulfilling lives.