TRIGGER WARNING: this article contains information regarding sexual assault, which is a very sensitive topic which may upset readers.
Tears. Panic. You’ve frozen up again and again, you’ve lied awake at night not being able to sleep, and a million thoughts have rushed through your head. I’ve been there, and it’s something no one should ever have to go through. Just know this: I believe you, and nothing that happened was your fault.
Throughout high school and beyond, I was raped multiple times by an abusive ex boyfriend. However, my trauma did not stop after the assaults stopped. For many rape victims, being assaulted can lead to low self esteem and body confidence issues. In a place where people are already pressured to look a certain way and have a certain body type, dealing with body confidence issues after a traumatic event is extremely difficult and requires a lot of deep breaths, relaxing thoughts, and support from family and friends.
The road to recovery isn’t easy, but it’s possible.
Personally, there were several things that helped me that I want other people to know about. After my rape, I felt more insecure about my body than I had ever been. I spent hours looking in the mirror at my stomach, thinking it wasn’t flat enough, and I started criticizing myself for everything that I ate.
Just know that after a trauma, you may be more conscious about your body shape than you were before. If you want to eat healthy, eat healthy. If you want to relax and eat comfort food, eat comfort food — it’s OK. Don’t starve yourself, because your body is beautiful the way it is and deserves to be treated with respect.
I struggled with my body image for so long. I wondered if I had been prettier, thinner, sexier, maybe, just maybe he would have considered me worthy of consent. Just know that how you looked or dressed does not excuse what your assaulter or rapist did to you, nor would it have changed how they acted.
An act many survivors struggle with after a trauma is sexual intimacy. Just know, there’s no right or wrong time to be sexual, whether it's with yourself or another partner. Just do whatever makes you feel good. Try having your partner emphasize consent during each step and asking you what feels OK.
If you have to avoid certain places or positions, avoid them. If you don’t want to be physical in that way with someone for awhile, that’s fine as well. Just understand there is no set time in which you should be sexual again. Don’t feel pressured to do more than you can handle.
Something else that helped me feel better was meditation and relaxation. Try it with a friend. Try it alone. Try it with a partner. However you do it, make yourself feel comfortable.
Imagine a place that is your safety zone, and take your mind there. Take deep breaths. You could even try yoga. I know stretching out my muscles and taking a hot shower really helped at the end of a long day.
Take time for yourself, take time off of work, and enjoy the things you like to do. Do things that make you feel empowered, where YOU control what happens and your own choices. And most importantly, breathe. Breathe. Breathe.