What’s it like…?

Recently I was asked to describe sexual assault and the aftermath of it for some research. It took me a few days to gather myself to do it. What I  was not ready for were some of the answers I wrote while I was acutally experiencing them and realizing for the first time what was happening.

-What is it like to be sexually assaulted?

  • subtle until you realize you just became another statistic
  • slow motion, internal argument that this isn’t really happening
  • crying, wishing it to be over, wishing for the taste of soap in your mouth over what you taste in that moment
  • numbing emotional pain
  • mind goes to another place to block it out

 

-What is the aftermath of sex assault like? How does it feel physically, mentally, emotionally?

  • scattered, unable to concentrate on anything
  • wanting to run but can’t because he can find you •unbelievable shame when you know you can’t tell anyone
  • mentally wandering, seeking ANYTHING that will explain the black hole inside
  • physically lethargic
  • emotionally weak, vulnerable, wanting attention and acting out to get it and don’t know why
  • crying all the time, unable to explain why even to yourself
  • cutting hair that was used to control you in an effort to get rid of the feeling of powerlessness
  • any man running touching you makes your skin feel angry
  • uncontrollable angry outbursts when touched or skin physically stimulated, completely unpredictable (tapping, rubbing, patting, chair kicking)
  • hypersensitive to every noise (gum chewing, sucking, and other mouth noises) and non verbal body language (breathing patterns, facial expressions)
  • closed off, wanting to open up and angry that you can’t
  • blamed myself, thought it wasn’t assault, I was just weak
  • constantly questioning myself, wondering if I am crazy or making it all up in my head

 

-What was it like when you started speaking up about the assault? Did people believe you? How did they react?

  • certain people were skeptical
  • blamed me for putting them in an awkward position because they knew the person
  • mom was offended by my language that was a result of my anger
  • “why on Earth would you tell that this happened?!?”
  • questioned my motives
  • blamed me for it happening

 

-What is it like to go through reporting a sexual crime? What is it like to complete a rape kit?

  • I had no idea I could report anything
  • he was a cop so I was screwed

 

-What kind of support did you receive (or not receive) from your friends and family? How did it make you feel?

  • none
  • felt alone, totally isolated

 

-What do you wish people who haven’t been sexually assaulted knew about sex assault?

  • it’s not a joking matter
  • it’s not the victim’s fault
  • it needs to be talked about
  • it’s terrifying even years later
  • perps are everywhere, even your own house
  • never assume you know why someone appears snotty and closed off, never know what they are dealing with
  • don’t assume it’s depression making them cry and be silent, it’s trauma

I finished filling this out during church (I know, I am such a bad Christian… oh, well.) and I suddenly began to recognize things as they happened. As I dug into my memories and feelings in an effort to condense my answers to the requested bullet points, I realized how deep the aftermath really went. It started when my husband put his arm around me. Yes, our relationship isn’t the best but this was different. My skin crawled where he touched me. His arm pinched my hair a bit and the panic of feeling trapped by my hair set in. The irritation continued the more I wrote. It was only as I was furiously swiping away on my phone’s keyboard that I becamse hyperaware of all the gum chewing, swallowing, and lip smacking around me. It drowned out the pastor’s voice and grated on my raw nerves. The person behind me kicking my chair jolted me into my core and the panicked feeling grew exponentially. I pushed myself to stay in my chair until I finished that last bullet point then I darted out the back of the sanctuary and found my “sanctuary” in the ladies’ room.  It was all making sense. It wasn’t necessarily my misbehaving children or my “annoying” husband or even the piles of unfolded laundry that had lately been setting off my cascade of emotional outbursts that have seemed to ramp up the past few years. I know it is by no means over but recognizing things is the first step to fixing it. At least that is my hope.

-me

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