“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – C.G. Jung.
I knew it happened.
But the savage reminders came flooding in as night terrors and flashbacks. Flashbacks when I least expected, and at any point of the day.
They would creep in slowly. I would get little blips of memories that my brain had tucked away so deep, I didn’t even know that they existed. Until they started to come pouring out.
It began as little unexpected triggers, that brought a new flashback to the surface and to light during the day. Only to haunt me at night when I would close my eyes.
The strongest flashback will always be the green bathtub in the motel where I sat for what felt like hours, emotionless. The life inside of me was drained and I no longer felt like dying nor did I feel alive. Where I let the shower water pour over me not wanting to leave.
The place I once found solace and safety in. The green bathtub that I was too afraid to leave, was now haunting me. Once the blip was released it now played on repeat daily and when I least expected it.
I felt nothing. A thick haze of white noise now replaced all thoughts inside my head.
“BRITTANY ALYSIA, are you with us?”
I’d snap out of it. I’d continue on with my day as if nothing happened. As if I didn’t just feel like it had all just happened all over again.
And that is how each piece was slowly revealed to me. Slowly and painfully. Like nails on a chalkboard that was a million fucking feet long.
Does one ever really get comfortable telling people their story of how they were sexually assaulted? Seven and ten years later, I can openly admit that it is still a difficult thing to say out loud.
Here are some of the FACTS published by the YWCA in Canada:
- 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.
- 8 out of 10 cases the assaulted knows their assailant
- 460,000 assaults happen in Canada every year
- Out of every 1000:
- 33 are reported
- 6 are prosecuted
- 3 lead to a conviction
- 997 assailants walk free
- 80% of women and 35% of men report significant short term or long term impact such as PTSD
I don’t find it difficult to talk about because I am ashamed, I worked through that a long time ago. I forgave myself a long time ago.
It’s difficult because of you.
Those who do not understand or who have never experienced sexual violence often ask, “How did you get yourself into that situation? Why did you stay? Why didn’t you run?”
What a punch to the gut. It feels as if the wind gets knocked out of you and you can’t breathe. Often as the anger or annoyance swirls inside you. It is interesting how it becomes your fault because someone else can’t wrap their own mind around the REALITY of what happened to you.
That’s THEIR shit though sweet dear. Not yours.
My reality is that I was assaulted by my partner after it was already over. 1 in 10 women have been raped by a sexual partner in their lifetime.
The question that it took me many years to find an answer to was this: Was it rape? If I knew them and we used to date, is it actually rape?
The questions I had to ask myself were this:
- When I was being dragged into a vehicle while trying to run away – was I indicating I wanted it?
- When I was crying and the mascara and eyeliner were pouring down my cheeks – was that a sign that I was okay with what was happening?
- Was my motionless body and face an indication that I was “into it”?
See for me, this was my experience.
So… for those who have ever asked someone the questions of why didn’t you do this or that – have I made you uncomfortable yet? Because I haven’t even shared any of the gory details.
This isn’t meant to sound as if I am “blaming” or “attacking” those who just don’t understand, because for the record, I know when I was being haunted by those events and they replayed in my mind over and over again… I spent a lot of time questioning what I could have ever done differently. I spent a lot of time BLAMING myself.
I’m not the only survivor of sexual violence who has ever had this experience.
But the truth is, it does not have to go to this extent for it to be considered rape.
In traumatic situations, many people have a “fight, flight, or freeze” response. And it is perfectly normal if you freeze. It is a natural response. The brain’s reaction in many situations can be to “shut down” the body making it difficult to move or talk during the experience.
For me, all I remember is how badly I wanted to throw up.
I know people are typically very genuine when you tell them what has happened, and they respond with, “Are you okay?” or “That’s terrible.”
Some people tell you not to talk about it at all. Especially not on the internet for the world to see. “It’s private”.
Private for who? Are you embarrassed for ME or for YOU?
Or how about when you’re told, “That it probably didn’t happen, or if it did it was probably your own fault.”
But you see, that is EXACTLY what the problem is. Why it took so long to talk about it. Countless people who experience sexual violence ask themselves, “Why would I come forward? No one will believe me anyway.”
Unfortunately this is often true.
As if you don’t feel ashamed, confused or embarrassed already, let’s add some salt to the wound. People struggle to be empathetic to things they do not know or understand.
So what the fuck is empathy anyway?
It’s the ability to understand another person’s experience, perspective, and feelings. Putting yourself in their shoes.
Let me say that again:
Putting yourself in THEIR shoes. Not putting on your own shoes and trying to understand it from your own perspective.
The biggest take away I have got from the #Metoo Movement, has been it’s mission of Empowering through Empathy. Survivors of sexual violence can speak out to another person and say, “I understand you.”
I don’t need anyone to feel fucking sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for me. So why would I expect or want you to either? Thanks for the consideration, but that is not my intention of the post today. It’s to raise awareness. This can happen to anyone.
ANYONE. The movement has grown to encompass men, women, and everyone under the sun. Anyone can be affected by sexual violence.
You will notice that throughout, I have not once used the term “victim”. I do not believe myself to be a victim. I’m a fucking human being just like any of you. A human being who was sexually assaulted by another human being.
I am not special or different from you. I am well aware of the dictionary definition of victim, however, I am also aware of the dictionary definition of BITCH; and I am not asking you to Make Life Your Female Dog.
In today’s society, the term victim has changed to become stigmatized as a “culture” of a way to get attention. Which is most surely not the case.
Through the empowerment, I was able to tell my story start to finish. It was only once I got the words out of my head, the flashbacks and night terrors stopped. I was finally free and they were no longer trapped within me.
I was finally able to accept that it was REAL.
Today I am no longer angry or allow it to control my life. And that is awesome. The power of honesty and vulnerability truly does set us free.
“You do not have the ability to stop what has been done to you, but you have the power to choose how you overcome it.” – Unknown
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or chat online using the Lifeline Crisis Chat anytime 24/7