selective focus photography of woman walking on sideroad

How Will I Ever Love Again After Being Sexually Assaulted?

Trigger warning: Sexual assault

After my assault, I felt lonely, hopeless, and like “damaged goods.” I remember ringing my mom for months on end and saying how I felt dirty and that when everyone looked at me, they no longer actually saw me. Even if they didn’t know what had happened to me, they could tell from some sort of invisible radar that I gave off (at least that’s what I thought). I felt, and still feel, as if any potential love interest could almost see a big warning sign over my head that advertised me as secondhand.

It is really difficult. I think it always will be. There is a lot of pain there.

Even now, after some time has passed, one of the thoughts I have not been able to overcome or bury is the one that suggests I might not be able to love. It sometimes feels like it isn’t possible, like some fundamental feature has been removed from within me.  My self-esteem has plummeted – I rarely feel attractive anymore. I almost feel like a candle which is burnt out — still standing, still there, but not really pretty or warm anymore.

Then, even if it is possible to overcome the first hurdle and I am able to love, how do you explain what has happened to a guy who you are intimate with? Because in my experience, as soon as you do that, they go from being a romantic potential to a friend who pities you.

But at the same time, I don’t feel like I can get close to a guy if I don’t tell him. Unfortunately, but obviously, I spend a lot of time thinking about my assault. The times I seem really distracted, or cold, or quiet, well, there is a good chance that I have been reminded about what has happened to me, whether it is because of a song, a smell, or an intrusive thought. Those close to me know what has happened – they know that I can be a bit distant. A bit cold. But how do you explain that to a new person in your life? And to a new love interest with all the additional intimacy implications?

I haven’t had sex since. I don’t know how I will feel when it happens. I’m scared I’m going to cry or shut down. This is another reason for why I feel like I need to tell the guy I’m dating. I don’t think casual sex is possible for me anymore, or at least at the moment.

Sometimes I lose faith. But I know that one day, I will meet a guy who will not look at me with pity and lose sight of my perfect personality (obviously) when I tell him. He will tell me that it doesn’t change anything, that he will love me in spite of what has happened to me. And until that happens, I need to work on loving myself. Valuing myself. I don’t need to let what has happened to me define me — I am amazing and I need to remember that. I don’t deserve to carry around the guilt and the weight of what has happened to me – that is on the perpetrator, not me. I am not dirty – he is dirty for what he did to me. I am fucking awesome. And so are you!