What It's Like Being A Survivor of Sexual Assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and in honor of this, to raise awareness as well as commend and support all survivors here is an anonymous interview with a survivor to give insight to their life after the fact and answer questions about how to support and educate the public.

Question 1: Firstly, how did the attacks make you feel about yourself?

The attacks definitely changed my viewpoints on myself. They made me feel helpless in a lot of ways, they made me feel like I couldn’t take care of myself. When you’re attacked, you feel powerless, and that helplessness can eat you up. It also can make you feel unwanted and unvalued, as if you’re property or an object since you were treated with disrespect in the harshest way, an attack on you. The attacks and abuse also deeply changed how I saw myself. I saw myself without innocence, and felt my purity was stolen from me. I felt like my body or my clothes or personality led to me being targeted, so I changed how I talked, walked, and dressed. I walked without confidence, wore baggy clothing, and didn’t do my makeup or hair. I gained weight, didn’t wash my hair or face and stopped practicing hygiene. My thinking was that if I was “gross” I wouldn’t be abused anymore, but that didn’t work. The only thing that stopped it was reporting it. And even though I have regained confidence and started dressing like myself again, there are still damages I deal with. It sent me into a depression and caused many health complications, both physical and mental. Some of these emotional and mental issues are still with me to this day.

Question 2: How did you see the world differently after the attacks?

You might think I saw the world through a harsher lens but the attacks also exposed me to the true good of the world. To the people who stood by me and supported me through the toughest time of my life. The world emerged as a darker place, but also as a dark place with very light areas and zones of love and hope.

Question 3: How did your everyday life change?

I became a lot more aware and observant of my surroundings and the behaviors of others. I’m just more paranoid and more vigilant. I never walk alone at night, I always carry a self-defense tool on me. I took classes in self-defense, I have a locator app, etc. My behavior also changed by causing me to never have a door to the back of me, or always checking the backseat of an Uber. All these little things other people don’t think about are now very prominent in my life.

Question 4: How did it affect your work, academics, activities, relationships, etc?

My grades slipped, I lost friends, I quit my extracurriculars, and withdrew from everything I loved. It is normal when experiencing trauma to retract from things that bring you joy, but it also should be a red flag to your loved ones.

Question 5: How can people support a survivor?

While all people are different, a universal way to support any survivor is by listening. Talking about what has happened to them is the hardest thing for a lot of people, so if they open up to you, listen.

Question 6: Many people feel it doesn’t get better. How does it get better?

Believe it or not some good came out of the traumatic experiences and terrible time in my life. It's easy to say the attacks ruined me or stopped me but if anything they motivated me to fight harder in life for what I want and to have higher standards for myself. It taught me to be independent and stronger, but it also taught me how short and valuable life is, and how important it is to go after your dreams and what you want, and not let others take it away from you no matter what. The attacks slowed me down, but they didn’t stop me.  

Sexual Assault is a significant problem in modern life and culture. But, with the support of the general public attacks can stop and survivors can be helped. Support survivors and remember to stay together, stay aware, and stay strong.

National Sexual Assault Hotline:

1-800-656-4673