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A Life Sentence?

It can often feel that way. Sexual trauma definitely changes the landscape of a person. And it can change the trajectory of their life.

One of the things that has most often been said to me, or asked of me, is why I can't just leave it all in the past. Obviously, the work that I do also keeps it in the forefront of my life, but even when I wasn't engaged in this work, the experience and impact of my own sexual trauma was at play in every aspect of my life.

I just didn't speak about it.

And realistically, that was mostly the result of confusion and shame. Most victims of sexual trauma do not speak about their experience for a long time after it happened, especially older survivors. The world today is more aware, but not necessarily better equipped to support victims and survivors of sexual trauma.

It is hard to explain why it is so pervasive for a lot, but not all, victims and survivors. I don't think the world is made for people who don't fit the 'normal' parameters of society (and yes, that might be most of us for different reasons). I can only share my experiences and my impact, but they do resonate with a lot of survivors.

The biggest area of my life that has been impacted is in my relationships. Experiencing sexual abuse as a child left me with no real understanding of boundaries or what healthy looked like in interactions with others. To see me, to watch me interact with others, you wouldn't realise that I learned how to interact through watching movies and television shows. I lack confidence in this area, and am, more often than not, very insecure.

This has resulted in me listening to others more than sharing which means that a lot of my friendships are mostly one-sided. This is not on the other person. I am the queen in deflecting attention away from me. I think that stems from the belief that I am not worthy of being heard or of being seen, and I learned early on (not correctly) that my value for others lies in what I can offer them. And you can imagine the impact that this inability to share creates in intimate relationships, especially when I have rarely embodied a healthy sexual identity.

Navigating the world we live in, through the lens of trauma, that cannot just be shut off, unfortunately, is exhausting. Not just for victims and survivors, but also for the people who do break through the walls and do support us. Sometimes there are no words to express what goes on in our brains and our hearts as we work and strive to believe we deserve the very best in life, in relationships.

Support groups are invaluable for working through these issues. Other victims and survivors understand the narratives and the accompanying feelings and they understand the why behind it. That is why we offer support groups within the Institute. Also invaluable, is personal therapy. We offer that here too, and with the work I do here, I have sourced my own therapist.

It is hard and it is doable though, to live an empowered and happy life after sexual trauma. The steps are to own what happened to you, to find a safe place to empower your voice, and to start healing the parts of you that were changed by what happened, that are not productive or healthy.

As humans, we all have things to work on. As survivors, we need to battle through the shame of believing we are 'less than' first.

We are here to support victims and survivors through the process whilst ever we have the capacity.

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