I want to start off with some affirmations. Some days it may be difficult to believe and internalize all of them but I promise they are all true. You are loved. You are important. You have so much worth in the world. I am so proud of you.
The pain of sexual assault is unlike anything else. The remnants of the violence can seep into every crevice of your self confidence and eat it away. You don’t have to be silent, there is help out there. Sometimes in places where you would least expect it. If you have been recovering for a while, you’re probably sick and tired of hearing the words “self care”. You’re probably sick of therapists telling you that taking a walk or meditation could help your anxiety or your parents suggesting that prayer will help heal depression. Trust me, I’m sick of it too, which is why I have a few ideas to keep in mind.
Talking with friends or mentors is great, but some of them just won’t understand. They are trying to be helpful, but if they don’t know a lot about trauma survivors or if they (hopefully) haven’t experienced it, the advice may seem unsupportive or offensive. Try not to erupt on them. (If you do, apologize when you are ready. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done this.) Do your best to remember that you trust this person and whatever they say is coming from a good place.
Try to make a physical or mental list of your triggers. I know this one may not sound like self care, but if you know what triggers you ahead of time, you can be more aware of keeping yourself safe. If you think you might experience a trigger in a certain space, map a possible exit should you feel like you have to leave, plan a phone call to a helpful friend, or plan to spend some reflective time alone later in the day.
Don’t forget to shower, eat food, and drink water. These simple daily tasks can become extremely cumbersome to someone who may be depressed. Keep a water bottle handy and eat a few crackers. Do what you can and be gentle with yourself.
Try to find someone you can relate to, you are not alone. Support groups can be a fantastic resource and are offered through many advocate organizations and health centers. If you are not interested in a face to face encounter, take to the internet. Read other people’s stories and check out blogs and forums.
When you are ready, reconnect with your sexuality. Experience your body alone and/or with a trusted partner. Take the time to figure out what your boundaries are. See what turns you on and what might be a trigger. This will be a trial and error process and it can be really scary. Search online for resources for survivors and allow yourself to learn and grow.
There is no one way to heal and your story and feelings are valid. Remember that although hearing other people’s stories may feel like your experience “wasn’t that bad,” you deserve healing and support. You deserve to be happy and safe. I want to end this letter the way I started, just for emphasis. You are loved. You are important. You have so much worth in the world. I am so proud of you.