Over the last year and half, I have been coping with the sexual assault experience I endured and unfortunately, I had to heal by myself. Why? Because in many respects I lost my friends after I was assaulted.
I took me a while to acknowledge what had truly happened and it took some time to tell someone the events of that night. I remember confiding in one of my guy friends, expecting for him to care and be supportive of me as I was trying to cope, but instead he just responded by laughing hysterically. Eventually, he told me he laughed because he didn’t believe me. Additionally, I had another person from my friend group tell me I had acted naïve and deserved what I experienced. However, with many of my other friends, they never said anything but I noticed the uncomfortable and unsure looks. I realized they no longer knew how to behave around me. They couldn’t face the truth.
Expecting a kind word, hug, or at least some form of care from the people you trust is not too much to ask for. Especially when going through a rough patch. I know it’s a difficult subject and they don’t necessarily make Hallmark cards for people trying to cope with these issues, but just imagine how the person who experienced the assault is feeling. Over the last year, I began to change. I became angry, bitter, depressed, and repressive. To quote the words of some, I became “unpleasant”. My friends no longer cared about me and my feelings, and they no longer wanted to associate with me because they could no longer accept my assault changed me in ways they will never imagine.
The apathy to my experience and to my healing process highlights to me exactly what is wrong with our society. By doing this, by not offering me any support and choosing not to care, they pretended it didn’t happen and by default, supported rape culture.
Over a year later, I have finally reached a point where I realize that I am not sorry for making them feel uncomfortable. I’m disappointed I spent so much time feeling guilty and uncomfortable. I should not feel bad about bringing a genuine problem of sexual assault to their attention while trying to heal in my own way. As much as I respect and still enjoy the company of many people, I believe the people who kept making me keep quiet and feel isolated should be the ones feeling guilty. I realize now they were condoning sexual assault and the culture around it. They didn’t listen or help and they turned it into a taboo subject, which I spent a year feeling guilty about.
If you have a friend or acquaintance tell you about something as awful as this, please do not turn them away because it makes you feel uncomfortable. I know that if it had been the other way around, I would have done everything they needed me to for support. You may find listening to something horrible hard, but please remember that the person who experienced the trauma is being extremely brave by talking about it.
Anyone reading this, please don’t turn away someone who needs you. It is time to break this taboo and start helping those effected by sexual assault. Listen to them, do not turn your back and pretend it isn’t happening.
This horrible thing happened but that doesn’t say anything about who I am. I am still worthy of the most pure and real love. I can live free from shame, blame, and regret. I have forgiven my attacker and still surprisingly have a civil relationship with them, not because they deserve it, but because I deserve to live in freedom. Most importantly, I have forgiven myself for what I didn’t know, for who I used to be, and for the doubt and pain I inflicted upon myself.