Have you ever felt deja vu? This may seem like a simple, harmless question, but for any person who’s experienced sexual assault, any reminder, aka trigger, can be quite dangerous. Whether it’s a date with a new person that says something to remind you of the wrong someone, a song that comes on the radio that you both enjoyed, or a place that you visited with the perpetrator, remembering for any reason can be painful, even dehabilitating at times.
The triggers don’t necessarily go away, and yet, life continues.
For me, I’ve focused on reclaiming my so-called triggers, which are unfortunately everywhere since I had a lot in common with the boy who precipitated one of the most painful memories of my life. However, reclaiming didn’t go so well. I didn’t realize how many songs, places, and other hobbies and things I once cherished were so tied up with memories of him until I tried to move on from the hurt of the past. I used to love how powerful and vivid my memory was, but suddenly, this strength turned into a dangerous weapon.
Living at this point became nearly unbearable. Realizing I couldn’t overcome the triggers made the task of moving on far too daunting. May is Mental Health Awareness month, and only recently have I come to understand the risky mental health state the trauma of the assault put me in.
Nonetheless, despite the depression, anxiety and pain he forced me to experience, I eventually discerned that I needed to focus on forgiving him. He never asked for forgiveness and didn’t deserve it, but for me and my future, I needed to let go of the fear, hurt, pain and anger from a moment in my past that I couldn’t control.
Forgiving isn’t a one-time act but a daily choice; I choose to forgive and let go again and again with each reminder so that I can also choose to be happy day after day and live a life full of joy.
While this is never easy, this choice has become my hope. This is far simpler to write here than to do, and it’s something I struggle with daily. But, it’s worth it. He doesn’t deserve my life or my joy, and I wish it didn’t take me two years to figure out that I was relinquishing it to him.
Moreover, forgiving does not mean I’ll forget the past or give up my human rights. Instead, forgiveness is an active way for me as a sexual assault survivor to stand up for myself and preserve my future.