A Journey After Sexual Trauma: My Story and What Helped Me Heal
If you are reading this, thank you. Thank you for reading my story and for offering your love and compassion to this sacred space. For those of us who have experienced sexual trauma, we understand how vulnerable and difficult it can be to share something this deep and personal. Thank you for your openness in reading this.
I also want to share that these things are what supported me on my own personal journey with the experiences that I have lived. This certainly does not mean that this is the way for everyone who has experienced sexual trauma to heal. Instead, please see this as my personal journey to heal the wound of trauma. Healing is a deeply personal journey for each of us.
Growing up in a small town in Utah, I was aware that sexual assaults and trauma occurred, but living in this small community led me to believe that it could never happen to me. I thought I understood the basic rules to “stay safe." These included: don’t walk alone at night, don’t wear revealing clothing and don’t get drunk in public. But what I didn’t know is that these rules horribly misconstrued my understanding of sexual assault and trauma. I had learned that by following these simple steps, I would be safe from this thing ever happening.
And very sadly, this is not true.
I would not understand this though until I was 19 years old.
When I was 19 I began dating a coworker of mine who was a few years older than me. I was immediately head over heels in love (or perhaps lust would be a better word here) with this man and soon we were living together in a small apartment. Within six months, our relationship was incredibly rocky and we were struggling to communicate well and find balance.
After a particularly bad argument, he asked me to move out so that we could have some space in our relationship. So I did, getting a small apartment in the heart of Salt Lake City and this is where I began to lick my wounds and slowly heal.
I, being young and under the illusion of love, worked endlessly to get back together with this man. I let go of important relationships in my life, abandoned dear friends and turned down huge career and educational offers all because I wanted to have another chance with this man.
I share all of this because I want to illustrate how deeply I had abandoned myself and how desperately I was seeking love in another human being and needed to be validated.
After a few months of healing on both of our ends, he reached out to me to see if I wanted to go to a movie. Inspired and excited that this could mean he was now ready to get back together, I immediately said yes. I remember the cold December evening and the ice on the streets as we walked into the movie theater with two other friends.
After leaving the movie theater a couple hours later, the 4 of us carpooled together towards my apartment to drop me off. When they stopped at my apartment building, I stepped out of the car and then noticed that my ex-boyfriend was getting out of the car too.
Perhaps I should have seen this as a sign but in that moment, I didn’t think anything of it. As I walked up the stairs towards my door, I heard him say to his friends that he wanted to hang out with me for a bit and then would walk home. As I unlocked my door I heard the car pull away down the street.
As I went into the bathroom to take off my earrings and bracelets, I felt him walk in behind me. Things felt very innocent at first - a gentle stroke down my back, his breath on my neck.
And then, things changed.
He began to forcefully pull my clothes off and while I attempted to pull them back up, he continued to yank on them as he pressed my body into the sink.
Later I would be asked by detectives why I didn’t resist more. If he was really doing all of this, why wouldn’t I have fought back? (Note: Not only was this remark incredibly disregarding of my experience but it also created deep shame within me as I questioned if I really should have done more)
The thing was… I didn’t understand what was happening until it was already happening. The man I loved and trusted and so desperately wanted to get back together with was suddenly assaulting me in my own home.
It wouldn’t be until my shrieks and sobs shook the entire apartment building that he finally looked up at me, with the most unfamiliar, cold eyes I had ever seen.
My life over the next few months involved police reports, court rooms and interviews with detectives. When this man knew I may contact the police, he had cornered me in the place we both worked and continued to ask me “You didn’t tell anyone right??”
And so, I found my rock bottom. I found the darkest part of myself and felt stuck there for a long time. These steps are how I began to slowly heal and reclaim the woman that I am.
How I slowly Healed~
Step 1: I allowed myself to hit rock bottom
Healing is messy and painful and often incredibly dark. After going through the court system and finding the majority of that experience to be incredibly disempowering and shame producing, I felt very alone. I found myself at the depths of my depression and allowed myself to stay there and mourn. Healing does not need to be a quick process and sometimes we simply need the space to feel sadness, anger and grief.
Step 2: I found safety
I distinctly remember one evening when I was alone and in a very unhealthy mental state. It was New Year’s Eve and while most of the world was celebrating, I was sitting in my apartment contemplating something very dark. I was frightened and horrified by my own thoughts and decided that I needed to go to a friend’s immediately before I did something permanent. And so I did. My friend welcomed me in though confused and concerned and I slept on her living room floor through the entire New Year’s celebration. I simply needed someone to give me the space to let go and feel safe.
Step 3: I began to pick up the pieces
After a few months of debilitating depression, I slowly felt ready to heal. With each day I felt more light in my body and wanted to give myself the space to heal this wound. I began to seek out workshops and trainings and classes that I thought could hold an empowering space for me. I looked into MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), yoga, meditation and trauma release therapies. Going to these kinds of healing spaces allowed me to feel supported in my healing journey.
Step 4: I found yoga
Yoga was one of the greatest healing tools I found during this time. I went as often as I could fit into my schedule and was usually the person crying during Savasana. It seemed like I was constantly finding classes that ended up having the theme of letting go and this was exactly what I needed at the time. On my mat I was able to release, let go, sweat and cry. It was incredibly life changing for me.
Step 5: I found meditation
After feeling more empowerment in my healing journey with yoga, I decided to add meditation into my life too. I created a small meditation space in my home and sat their often to reflect, release and be still. Having this healing space to go to in my own home was so deeply special to me.
Step 6: I found Source