From my personal experience, I know that it can be extraordinarily hard to admit that you were raped. There is such a stigma around rape and assault that makes people feel like they can’t talk about their experiences.
This made me feel weak, dirty, and afraid of what others would think or how they would react. Often I thought my life would be easier if I just stayed quiet or downplayed my experience.
But I knew if I stayed silent, I would be denying myself the help I wanted and knew I needed.
After a while, I physically couldn’t take what was happening to me anymore. So I decided to come forward about my rapes. The healing and recovery process has been a roller coaster of emotions and years of growth and finding my strength and courage.
These are some steps I have taken in my recovery.
1. Opening Up About What Happened
This was the first step in my road to healing. My advice is to reach out to a person you trust and feel safe around. For me, it was my mom.
If you stay silent and try to avoid talking about it, you won’t be able to heal properly. When I first started sharing what was happening, I would only tell parts. Eventually, it became too much, and I shared everything I went through.
You can’t heal if you’re avoiding the truth.
I know how scary it can be to open up about such a tragic time, but it will set you free. If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to someone, you can always call the rape crisis hotline at 800-656-4673.
2. Learning To Prepare For Flashbacks
When we go through something stressful, our bodies automatically go into fight-or-flight mode. When I was being raped, I would just try to fight to make it through that moment. When I came forward, I had a sense of relief that it was finally over.
Things became very chaotic. My body didn’t have time to understand all that was happening. When things finally slowed down a bit, and I was able to stop and comprehend all that happened, this was very triggering for my mental health.
I eventually started having nightmares. I felt like I kept seeing his face everywhere I went, and I kept going back to the days he raped me. Preparing for certain things like dates that rapes happened on or being at certain places has helped me when flashbacks arise. If you’re aware of your triggers, you can better prepare steps in helping to stay calm when they happen.
3. Staying Connected
After I came forward, I could feel myself withdrawing from family, school, and friends. But, in time, I learned that it is so important to stay connected to things that make you feel safe and make you happy.
Other people’s support is huge when recovering from rape. When healing and staying connected, it’s important to remember that you don’t always have to talk about what happened. You’re allowed to laugh and have fun.
4. Nurturing Yourself
This is a part of my recovery I am still learning. Healing from rape is an ongoing process. The memories never just disappear. This can make life seem difficult at times.
It’s important to make sure you always do what your body needs and take time to learn ways to take care of yourself.
I have found that yoga helps me calm down. Also, taking rest when needed has been helpful. It’s exhausting living with permanent trauma, so it’s okay to need a break. I have also found that changing my media consumption has helped. I try to avoid certain shows or movies that may be triggering.
Be patient with yourself while you’re healing from any trauma. It takes time. Focus on your recovery and find ways that will help you heal and grow.