Once in high school, a girl told me that despite her going to the school to report her assault, she had to sit next to her rapist every day in class.
I never thought I would understand this feeling, and I still cannot imagine experiencing it to that magnitude, but I finally do understand. My freshman year of high school I was sexually assaulted and I never reported it. He was a few years older than me, so I still saw him in the hallways until he graduated, but I never fully understood or faced what had happened.
The other day I saw my assaulter, and he was standing with his girlfriend at a party. It was an experience I can barely even describe. My immediate reaction was pure panic. I ran into the bathroom with a friend, who had to calm me down. My next thought was how dare he. How dare he be allowed to continue to have a normal life. How dare he have a girlfriend, who probably has no idea what he did to me. How dare he be able to have a normal life, going to parties and drinking with friends while I have this reaction.
When I imagine someone having to endure this feeling every day, it kills me. To the men and women who experience this, I cannot possibly imagine the pain of having those thoughts every day. So I have some things I need to tell you, not as someone who has any professional training, but as someone who is feeling these things for the first time.
It is okay to be hurt.
If you feel hurt by this person, hurt that you have to go through this, hurt that it isn't fair, be hurt. You are absolutely allowed to be hurt and you do not have to pretend to be strong enough to do it on your own.
Any feeling you have is okay.
If you are angry or upset or distraught, you're right. If you miss them or still love them or want to reconnect with them, you're right. If you feel numb, you're right. Anything you feel in the moment is the right feeling because you are entitled to feel that way.
Your safety is the most important thing.
If you feel unsafe, physically or mentally, get out of there. Leave the classroom or the party or wherever you are if you cannot be in there anymore.
Back-sliding after the encounter happens sometimes.
Even a small encounter with someone who traumatizes you can have a long impact on your mental health. Talk to someone if you need to and don't be afraid to reach out, but be aware that it's normal to feel depressed after being in a situation like that.
People are with you.
The news recently might be scary, but ultimately there are people who will stand with you. There are survivors out there with support groups, and resources for you to help you understand that you are not alone. People will always be here for you. I am with you.
Any experience you have where you have to relive or be reminded of a traumatizing situation is incredibly scary. Remember that whatever you do in that situation is the best thing for you. Only you get to decide what is best for you, and if that is leaving the situation or confronting them, do it.