Sexual Assault: How Understanding Myself As A Victim Released Me From Living As One

rape post

I don’t think all stories need to be told publicly. First, mine needed to be told in a therapist’s office. Lying on the couch in my living room. Crying with my husband. Fighting into my pillow. Breaking glass on a country road. But now 8 years after I finally shared my story for the first time, I am sharing mine publicly.

Because the stories need to be told. They need to be known. They need to be named. Because when someone finally gives you the gift of telling you that you have been a victim, you have the opportunity to stop living as one.

Keeping truth in the darkness destroys the soul. Darkness cannot overtake light, neither scientifically or biblically. Darkness, by definition, is only the absence of light. It therefore has no power in and of itself, it only has power when light is absent. Light is inherently more powerful than darkness.

And like in the person of Jesus: Truth and Light, they go together.

While darkness cannot swallow up light, it can swallow up your life. When our stories are not told, we live in darkness. The truth that could set us free becomes the chain that imprisons us.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize what I experienced was rape until several years later. After my personality suffered, my confidence tanked, my subsequent relationships were affected. For years I referred to his actions as “forceful” and something that made me uncomfortable. I thought that word “rape” was for movies and urban legends, and for really dramatic encounters that included slapping, pushing, shoving, slitting ankles while one got into their car, or ripping clothes off. And certainly it can include those things.

This rape, it happened with someone I was dating, someone I thought I loved. Someone I trusted. It was daytime. I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t asking for it. I didn’t say yes.

In the following days after he was “forceful”, when I went to confront him… he told me I had wanted it. As if my words of discomfort had never been spoken. As if I had never pushed his body away from me. He told me that he had never respected me during our relationship anyways.

Those words penetrated my heart with a sort of death, just like he had done to my body days before.  I questioned myself. I blamed myself. I began to make excuses for him. Maybe I did want that? Maybe he thought I was just kidding, that I was playing around when I pushed him away? That must have been hard for him to understand. I mean, I had been told men have a hard time controlling themselves, right? Maybe I looked really cute that day, it was probably more difficult for him to walk away.

I left that conversation subconsciously determined to prove that I was respectable as a human, as a woman. I would spend years looking for my worth, spinning my wheels convincing myself that I was capable and strong, all the while denying circumstances that showed me it was true. I was losing my life’s energy running away from the truth of what happened.

It took me multiple breakdowns over many years before I finally walked into the light. It started as I began to get close to my husband, he was then just my friend. I felt safe with him and that scared me. I thought I was safe before.  I had lost trust in my own instincts. I hadn’t even kissed this new friend of mine, but I was terrified.

Before a camping trip we were preparing for, I shared with my new friend the “forcefulness” with which I had been treated at one point. He listened empathetically. He didn’t name anything for me, he simple carried my story with him, and remained with me. He, yes he, set up boundaries for our camping trip to make me feel safe. He told me what I could expect from him physically, how  to know I would be safe. Then he followed through on everything he had said. A crack of light begin to illuminate some truth, maybe men could control themselves?

It wasn’t until I married this friend who carried my story that my hidden truth began to disrupt my life in a way I could no longer ignore. Since we had chosen not to have a sexual relationship until we were married, it began on our honeymoon. I had disturbing dreams in which I was manipulated to perform sexual acts, lest the entire world be destroyed. It was a lot of pressure on me. Akin to the pressure that had been building inside of me, brewing in the the darkness of a story untold.

It took PTSD, full blown Panic Disorder, and becoming a shell of myself before I told my story.  We had been married for mere months when I could no longer trust myself to go to the grocery store without a full blown panic attack. We had several ER visits because I was sure I was dying. That’s on par for the experience of panic attacks, in case you are wondering. When the diagnostic tests keep coming back clear, it’s time to find out what else I going on.

I finally walked into a therapist’s office, except it wasn’t just an office, it was a weeks-long outpatient day program, because I could no longer function through my daily life in most capacities. I remember turning that handle beneath the small sign that said “outpatient mental hospital.” Failure and relief strangely danced together. I was not who I thought I was, but then again, maybe I was really not who I thought I was.

During the individual sessions my therapist began breaking the news to me of what I had experienced. The “forcefulness” story I had told myself was actually called rape. She said it would be helpful for me to name this truth. But I couldn’t speak the words, so I tried to write about it. My journal from that time reads something like this: My therapist says it was ­­­­___________, and I think I believe her, but it have a hard time writing it out. There’s something about seeing it. I actually thought writing it might help me name it, but it seems that bringing into the light is the most difficult part, whether spoken or written. I actually drew a line where there should have been a word.

Finally, I got there. I brought it into the light. With my husband, with my therapist, with my sister. I named it. I called what it was. It was rape, and it had put a darkness in my soul that had damaged me for years. But darkness is only the absence of light. And I was done living in darkness.  I was a victim of rape. And the irony was that naming that truth of being a victim was the beginning of being set free from living like a victim. Like when someone says condescendingly, “oh, don’t be such a victim.” They connote powerlessness.

But when I named that I was a victim, it was the beginning of something powerful: it was the beginning of me.

When the truth was told I began to have a clearer picture of what really was inside of me. When lies and flesh had penetrated my being many years prior, all they had done was shroud in darkness the core truth of me. And when light came in, worth, belonging, and confidence had been waiting for the light to reveal them. They had been there all along. Indeed, I was not who I thought I was after all. I was much more.

And so are you.

You are more than any darkness may suggest. When darkness hides the truth, lies fester. It doesn’t matter if you are a leader. A parent. A pastor. It doesn’t matter if it happened last night or last millennium. Talk to someone. You can’t outrun your story. Tell your story to someone safe, to someone you trust.  Live in light. Experience how the truth can set you free.

Shedding light into dark corners at first feels like fear. So if you are feeling fear now, you might be heading in the right direction. But you don’t have to do it alone. Light eventually brings freedom and reveals Love.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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