June 30, 2014

5 years

TW: SEXUAL ABUSE, RAPE CULTURE, PTSD


5 years ago, I claimed my title as a survivor of sexual abuse in front of a group of people that were not my immediate family or my therapist. It was a pivotal moment down my path to recovery--they say being able to say it out loud provides a sense of empowerment. And it did. My voice shook as I said those words out loud one more time: "I am a survivor of sexual abuse."

But this time was different. I wasn't in the comfy blue recliner within the safe four walls of my therapist's office. I wasn't sitting in the kitchen talking to my mom about it while helping her with dinner. I was standing front and center at the podium of a lecture hall at Lake Forest College.

My knees were weak and I gripped the podium for dear life. I spoke about my diagnosis with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that I had received six months earlier. I spoke about being afraid at school, being afraid at every family event that occurred where I knew he was going to be there. I gave statistics and cold hard facts about sexual abuse and PTSD that I had learned in therapy. For a split second, I felt her in there with me--the girl I was before it happened. Like she slipped in unnoticed to give me a show of the utmost support before she disappeared forever.

When I was finished reading, everyone applauded. After celebratory reading was finished, a handful of people gave me hugs and told me how brave I was to share that in front of them. I remember that day being the first time I had ever felt truly empowered on my journey of survival.

Since then, I've also given speeches about my experience to my college speech class and to a small group of girls at my old high school. I never walk away from a chance to talk about it because a) more people need to be educated about sexual abuse and rape culture in general, and b) the feelings of empowerment is like a high. It's like I get to stare my abuser in the face and tell him, "Hey guess what, you don't own me anymore. You don't get to control my life or my actions or my feelings anymore." It's one of the best feelings in the world, empowerment.

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