As survivors of sexual assault, blaming ourselves is one of the most damaging things to do. You, like many of us, might be going through a severe case of the “if only’s.”
- “If only I hadn’t trusted this person.”
- “If only I had screamed”
- “If only I didn’t let him in”‘
It’s natural to regret past actions and wish things were different. However, it adds to the stress when you take responsibility for someone else’s actions. As a matter of fact, the decisions made during the assault enabled you to live through the experience, to survive it. With that in mind, give yourselves credit for making the best decisions you could at the time.
Own Your Truth
It’s helpful to remember that you are the one who was there during the assault. Consequently, others may state their opinions and question your behaviour before, during or after the assault. It is easy to second-guess other people and easier to second guess yourself, even with twenty-twenty hindsight. But please remember and believe that you did the best you could in the situation you were placed in.
You may also encounter people who either don’t believe your story or disagree with the choices you made. As a result, they may blame you for being sexually assaulted or tell you what you “should have done” to prevent the assault. Correspondingly, these responses can hurt. But remember that these are merely someone else’s opinions or prejudices. Please do not allow it to cause you to doubt yourself and add to your pain and trauma.
Sexual assault is a traumatic event. It is a shock to our physical, emotional and psychological well being. A point often overlooked is that everyone reacts to trauma differently. Therefore there is no right or wrong way to feel. It takes time to process the pain and other feelings. The trauma of being sexually assaulted can be shattering. It can leave you feeling scared, ashamed, and alone or plagued by nightmares, flashbacks, and other unpleasant memories. However, it is important to remember that what you’re experiencing is a normal reaction to trauma. Your feelings of helplessness, shame, defectiveness, and self-blame are symptoms, not reality.
If you walk away with anything from this, let it be: your assault was not your fault. No matter what, I hope you know that we believe you, you are not alone, and you did not deserve what happened to you. You are strong.
Below is a document with a list of numbers of places to reach out to if you need help. Definitely, download it and share it widely. If you notice any numbers which don’t work, please reach out to the Violence Prevention Alliance. They will be able to direct you.