There are some things in life that take you and change you to your core. These things come out of nowhere and blindside you. For me, this was my sexual assault. I am a very different person after experiencing what I have. There is something about being forced against your will into a very uncomfortable and frightening situation that leaves you a completely different person. Everyone told me “You are still who you were before this happened. You are still you. You haven’t changed.” Everyone was wrong. I AM different. I HAVE changed. From the moment I stepped away, I was a different person.
What is so wrong with being changed by trauma? What is so wrong with being a different person after something comes along and changes everything you thought you knew? What if I changed for the better? No one thinks about that. No one talks about how horrible things can make you a better person. It’s all about how you handle the situation, how you react. You make the choice on whether it makes you or breaks you. I knew that in order for me to get through it, in order for me to come out on the other side a better person, I had to CHOOSE to use my assault as a learning experience.
I learned to be less naive. I am too optimistic when it comes to people. I want to believe that everyone is good. I want to believe that no one would ever intentionally hurt another human being. Unfortunately, that’s a big fat hell of a lie. Not everyone in this world is trustworthy, and not everyone in this world has good intentions. That’s the cold hard truth of it all, and it sucks. Man, does it suck. But, it’s a lesson that needs to be learned. Being too hopeful, too optimistic, having too many expectations only breaks your heart when you learn that the world isn’t what you thought. People are not always going to love you. People are not always going to protect you. Sometimes you HAVE to have your guard up because you are the only one there to protect yourself.
I learned how to reach out to others for help. I have always been one of those people who absolutely hates to ask others for help. I inherit that trait honestly from my father. I hate seeming weak or incapable of taking care of myself. I don’t like letting people know that I am not okay. I have always been that person in my groups of friends, at work, in my family, that makes sure everyone else has what they need. I always make sure that other people are okay before I take care of myself. The aftermath of my assault taught me that sometimes you need to let people know you aren’t okay. You don’t always have to be strong for everyone else. Being broken is a part of being human. There should be absolutely no shame in needing help when you have been knocked down. Reaching out was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I wouldn’t have made it through if I didn’t.
I learned who was really there for me. As terrible as it is, I lost a lot of people in the time following my assault. People were either too weirded out after learning what happened or they didn’t know how to handle it, so they distanced themselves. It was hard to deal with people leaving over something I had no control over, but it made me more appreciative of the people I did have in my corner. Being raped changes how you view relationships of any nature. You start to mistrust everyone you come across. You begin to push people away in fear of being hurt or judged for what happened to you. I was so lucky to have friends and family who loved me enough to push through it with me. I have friends who never gave up on me and never let me think that I was alone. I learned that for every person that couldn’t handle me, there were two more people who wanted to help put me back together. I built unbreakable bonds with my closest friends during this period of my life because they showed me and proved to me that they are truly here for the good time and the ugly. Good, strong, and healthy relationships were so important for my recovery.
I learned that life is unfair. This seems like it should be common sense. I know that most normal people already know this to be a fact. I, however, did not understand just how unfair life could be. I grew up in a family where I got most everything I wanted as a child. I was bailed out of almost every bad thing I did growing up. I was a spoiled brat, and that’s putting it in the nicest of terms. I grew up sheltered and protected from how unfair real life really is. I don’t blame my parents for that at all. Not one bit. I didn’t think anything bad would ever happen to me. I didn’t think that I would ever be one of the girls who got raped. That used to be my mindset, until it happened to me. It wasn’t until it happened that I realized that, sometimes, life gets really shitty and there isn’t a damn thing you can do to stop it. I kept thinking to myself, “I don’t deserve this. I didn’t cause this. Why is this happening?” Afterwards, I realized there is no answer to that question. There is no answer to why it happened, other than the fact that sometimes life deals you a bunch of really shitty things, and you just have to live with it.
I learned who I am. This is by far the most important lesson I learned during this period of my life. In some strange, bizarre, crazy, fucked up way…. I learned who I am. I learned that I am so much stronger than I ever thought possible. I learned that I can endure some of the greatest pain and still come out of it alive. I learned that I have a spirit that cannot be crushed by the cruelty of others. I am still capable of caring for others while learning to take care of myself. I am capable of standing up for myself and having a voce much louder than I ever thought possible. I am capable of change. I am capable of love. I am capable of finding the beauty in an otherwise dark and twisted situation. I am a WARRIOR. Because of my assault, I discovered that I want to spend the rest of my life helping other people who have experienced the same thing. I would have never decided to switch my major and specialize in Sexual Assault Counseling if this had never happened to me. I am still learning new things about myself EVERY day and it’s amazing.
I know that not everyone who goes through something like this is able to look back on it and see the positives that came out of it, and that’s okay. This is how I can heal. Am I glad that it happened to me? No way in hell. I would absolutely go back and stop it if I could. Unfortunately, I can’t. I’m trying to make the best of the hand that I was dealt. I want to look back, years from now, and say “I did it. I got through the hardest time of my life. I’m okay. I’m alive. I’m still here.” I want to be able to encourage my patients throughout my career that, yes, you CAN make it through. Yes, you CAN, come out of this in one piece. Yes, it is OKAY to try and find the positive aspects of a horrible situation.
I did it. I conquered. I overcame.
As the lyrics from one of my favorite songs say, “Now I’m a Warrior. I’ve got thicker skin. I’m a Warrior. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. My armor is made of steel and you can’t get in. I’m a Warrior. You can never hurt me again.”