TW: Sexual Assault.
As you know, it’s April, and that means it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (otherwise known as SAAM). This month is one that means a lot to me and raising awareness for the issue of sexual assault around the world, especially for college-aged students, is something that I try to do every April and every day.
To start, I would like to share some resources for victims and advocates to look into and use when necessary:
1. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): This is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the world, has online chat specialists, and hotline specialists available 24/7 to speak to about sexual assault, abuse, incest, etc. for either the survivor themselves or for someone who may need help deciding what to do for a survivor. You can chat online at https://hotline.rainn.org/online, or call the hotline at 800-656-4673.
2. To stay updated on Title IX, I always go to the non-profit organization “Know Your IX”. While Title IX laws cover more than just sexual assault, they can greatly affect the way schools handle (K-12 and college) can handle sexual assault cases on their campuses. You can visit “Know Your IX” at their website https://www.knowyourix.org/college-resources/title-ix/ or their Instagram @knowyour9.
3. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC): This resource center helps with education about sexual violence, the history of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and various resources for survivors, friends and family, educators, and the media. You can visit their website at https://www.nsvrc.org/.
As a survivor myself and someone who has suffered the detrimental effects of it, I want to reiterate the fact that what happened to you is not your fault. You do not deserve what happened to you, no matter what you wore, where you were, who you were with, what you drank, whatever it may be. You did not deserve it. I know that sentiment can be hard to believe given the lack of understanding and shame that is placed on survivors from society, maybe your family and friends, but please believe me on this one. No one wakes up one day and chooses to go through this traumatic experience. You didn’t, I didn’t, no one does.
As I mentioned, I have suffered and continue to suffer the detrimental effects of it. I have previously written about my depression, and how my experience with sexual assault caused me to plummet into a dark depressive episode that I felt I could never get out of. I have increased anxiety being alone at night, whether I’m in my own apartment or walking around campus. I also have been diagnosed with PTSD and often have episodes where I re-experience everything that happened and have left reality into this terrifying alternative. If you are experiencing any of these things please reach out to a mental health professional if you don’t have one yet, your own therapist, or doctor to figure out the right path to take towards healing.
Things that help me through my anxious moments or my PTSD episodes are having someone there to help me and touch my arm and reiterate that I’m safe to bring me back to reality. Another is grounding, which entails the recalling of your five senses. This works for both PTSD episodes and anxiety attacks. List aloud one thing you can see, smell, touch, hear, and taste. Use this to help bring yourself back to center, and to ease you back to a safer place. As for my depressive episodes that surround my experience with sexual assault, I do my best to remind myself that I didn’t ask for what happened to me, that I’m so much more than what I’ve gone through and that I will fully heal from this one day. This isn’t always easy, but writing it down or forcing yourself to say it aloud and repeat it, eventually causes you to start believing it. I also like to reach out to those I trust to talk about it and to vent, however, I know this isn’t easy for everyone to do.
To reiterate it and drill it into your head, please remember: you are so much more than what you went through. You are stronger than you could ever believe. Your experience is valid, it’s real, and I’m so sorry that you have had to go through this traumatic time. I believe you, I support you, I’m here for you. Healing isn’t easy and it never will be linear, there will be lows and highs, and you will have your setbacks throughout that time, but you will heal from that experience. I promise.
Please reach out to the resources above, close friends or family that you trust, or a mental health specialist if you ever feel lost on how to continue healing after your experience.