I Don’t Feel ‘Brave’ For Speaking Out About Assault

shadow of a girl
Kaylah Otto

It seems that I can’t scroll through social media without being reminded of that night. After the second time that I was assaulted, I wished for nothing more than to have those moments erased from my memory or to make art from my experience. To overcome, to edit out out the details, as if my life was as simple as a photoshopped picture.

I read the headlines about rape accusations and every time I am forced to bite my tongue because they hit too close to home. These triggers force me to time travel back to the night I was too far gone to open my eyes, or to open my mouth, but was still conscious enough to feel everything.

As much as I try to rise above and work hard to make sure those negative experiences don’t define me, or affect my ability, I can’t pretend that I do not think of them on a daily basis.

After that night, I told a few of my closest friends about the events, but no one knew how to handle the information. So, to make sure I didn’t make anyone else uncomfortable with my story, I did the opposite of what one who has faced this kind of trauma should do and I repressed; I decided to move on with my life since I was transferring schools anyway.

I took one of my finals the following day, as if nothing had happened. I didn’t really feel anything. I went to extremes of not crying for months, to crying over everything. I went a year and half without having sex and then through a phase of casual relationships that revolved around nothing but sex.

The first productive feeling of healing began when I decided to start writing about my personal experiences. However, this backfired after being shamed by another assault survivor for the way I chose to express and cope with my own experience. I was back to repression, so I took a brief break from acknowledging the scenario even happened.

What I learned from this shame, is that the last thing you should ever tell someone who was assaulted, is that their experience wasn’t real and that their feelings on the matter are not accurate because there is no standard sizing chart that measures the relevance of trauma.

No one expects it to happen to them. I didn’t know about my resources; I didn’t know I had time, that I could report it within three days of the occurrence.

Not only that, but we rarely acknowledge the other factors that go along with scenarios like this: I didn’t want to ruin his life, I didn’t want the negative attention—to be the girl who cried rape—and I didn’t have the heart to stand up for myself by directly telling him what he did was wrong because I don’t think he even realized he did something wrong.

When I began to open up about my experiences again people would refer to me as “brave.”

However, I can’t say I agree. I came out of the situation, but I was just lucky.

Every day, I read the headlines and I regret my decisions even more. I carry the guilt of not reporting what happened to me, I lose sleep over the fact that another girl might experience the way I was treated and that this could have turned into an endless cycle when I could have, I should have been brave. TC mark

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Image Credit: Kaylah Otto

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