A woman of strength after sexual assault

Control by Poe

It's a pleasure to share one's memories. Everything remembered is dear, endearing, touching, precious. At least the past is safe --though we didn't know it at the time. We know it now. Because it's in the past; because we have survived.
~ Susan Sontaq

It’s quite a journey, this healing road.

At different points in time I’ve wondered what it would be like to be ‘on the other side’…whole, healed and just fine. As time moved forward I’ve wondered what it would take to heal from a literal life time of rape and abuse… would I be healed once it stopped? Once it went to the police? The grand jury? Trial? At sentencing?

There is a saying that with age comes wisdom. I’ve started to understand what that is all about (okay, so I’m getting old). I’ve realized that despite an abuse history that started at the age of three that I have been whole the entire time. I’ve experienced myself as being in pieces from time to time, but the reality of it is…I’ve always been whole. I’ve always responded the way I’ve needed to in order to survive. How do I know that? Well, after over three decades of rape and abuse, a long legal process and a bunch of other not-so-fun stuff…I’m still here. Every day I learn something new and every day I try to create new space for growth to occur.

Healing, hmm. That is a different ball game. I’m still healing, realistically. I will probably always be doing some form of healing. That does not in anyway impede the quality of my life. I’ve learned a lot about PTSD and how to manage it, about responsibility and not assuming that which does not belong to me… I’ve discovered a great deal about myself, about people, about the world. I feel centered, grounded…I’ve found and used my voice. I will always be growing and moving forward, that’s what makes life exciting. In healing I’ve learned that my history does not define me. It does not define my future. I’m in the driver’s seat of my life and I define who I am and I actively make choices that will shape my future. Empowerment is a wonderful thing.

I remember learning the definition of a victim years ago in a graduate class…Victim: Noun: One who engages in self-hating behavior. That was one of those proverbial light bulb moments. I lived in that space for a long time. I no longer do…I can honor myself, my spirit and my process and know that it is unique and beautiful.

I would guess that people want to know if reporting it and going through the legal system was worth it. If it was empowering. If I’d do it again. I would not by any means call the process of moving forward to trial empowering. It’s anything but. Was it worth it? Would I do it again? The only thing that I can say is that I know it was the right thing to do. It was an absolutely hellish three years and three months. There were many times that it turned life upside down and it was never fun to have it hanging over my head… It was disappointing to learn how the system works (or doesn’t work in many cases). It wasn’t perfect, but it made me stronger. It gave me safety that I’ve never had or known in my entire life. That’s a cool thing. I reflexively look over my shoulder and scan for danger, but at least now I can smile afterwards and know that it is but a reflex and no longer a reality.

There are a few things I’ve learned that I’d like to share. There are days and weeks that can feel so filled with darkness, you wish for it to end, you wish for someone to rescue you from it. In fact, you wish so hard it hurts. When we are in that spot the best thing we can do is walk right smack into the middle of the darkness and illuminate it with our very own precious light. It’s there, that light never goes out. It may feel distant to you at times, but it’s always there. We can own it, nurture it and turn to it whenever we need.  We have to trust ourselves. Our instincts, even when we don’t understand them, are life saving. We truly do know exactly what we need to do to be okay and survive. Human resilience is phenomenal. Sometimes living through violence and being hurt so badly makes you not want to take any risks…but when we don’t risk at all we miss out on some truly wonderful things. I know that I can’t guarantee my safety, but there are things I can do to enhance it. I also reassure myself that if something does happen that I’ll figure it out… I can count on my resilience to get through pretty much anything. And you know what? So can you…

Have faith…believe…struggle, strive and choose life…and know that you are precious.

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