There are some things I wish I knew after I was attacked. I wish I knew simple facts and more complex things. I wish I knew how to take care of myself after the assault and how to open up to others. So, I'll share the things I think everyone should know about sexual assault and why they are important to me.
1. It's so hard to tell your family.
I don't care how close you are to your family, it's so very hard to tell anyone. I still haven't told my brother, my mother, or anyone honestly. My nan's husband knows vaguely and my boyfriend knows. That's it. I could never look my brother in the eyes and tell him what happened for fear he'd judge me. There was never a "good" time and there may never be a good time. Just know, they may not understand your struggles or why you do the things you do but they love you. No matter what. One day I'll tell my family what happened, but not today. Not until I'm ready.
2. You shouldn't be ashamed.
I couldn't talk to anyone because I felt so ashamed and felt like it was my fault. I felt like I had to hide it so I wouldn't be labeled as a whore. Survivors are always guilted and blamed for something they didn't do but know that you did NOTHING wrong. Your power can't be taken away by people who will never understand what you went through. Stroke that inner fire and don't let anyone put it out.
3. It's not your fault.
You're either lying or deserved "it." I'm here to tell you that people are wrong and insensitive. If it never happened to them, they won't understand. They don't know the anguish of being hurt like that and you hope that they never do. I promise you, it was not your fault.
4. It never goes away.
You hope they never know the pain you feel every.single.day. It's a pain that follows you in the happy moments, in the sad moments, and in every moment of your life. It may not be your forethought but it's there. You never forget, even when you beg to and try to scrape it out of your mind.
5. You need to tell someone, but only when you are ready.
I know how hard it is to open up to someone about it and it takes time, but make sure you do tell someone. It takes the burden off and helps you shoulder what happened to you. Make sure the person you tell is someone you trust, in a safe environment, because you can't predict what will happen when you begin to let it out.
6. No one can tell you whether to prosecute or not.
For me, it was too late but maybe for you it isn't. Make sure it's what you want to do. You should never feel forced to do anything again. It's your choice and there isn't a right or wrong decision because it only matters what is mentally and emotionally good for you.
7. You can be sexually assaulted, even in a relationship.
I know this from personal experience. I'm sure the boy who hurt me doesn't even realize he coerced me into doing things I didn't want to, leading up to ignoring my no's. All because we were in a relationship. Instead, my no's meant "I was playing hard to get." I wasn't and I hope he see's the error in his ways. I hope he isn't doing it to someone else and that's a fear I battle in my sleepless nights.
8. You will heal.
It's been a long journey and I know that I've come a long way. In my relationship with my current boyfriend, I don't freak out at the littlest touches or certain words anymore but I haven't gotten to the point where I don't think about the way his hand is touching my neck and where fear doesn't creep into my mind because of it. I may not be whole yet, and I maybe never be, but I know one day I'll overcome the worst thing to ever happen to me. I have hope for myself and for all other suvivors out there.
Sexual assault is a terrible thing but there are things everyone should know even if you weren't the victim. Don't force them to tell you or touch you without permission. You don't call them names or let others make them feel guilty. You protect them but most of all, you love them because that is all they really need.
And for you, I want you to know that you are brave and beautiful. I want you to know that you are worthy of love.