TW // sexual violence
“Shame is that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough.” — Brené Brown
Experiencing sexual assault is one of the most traumatic experiences possible. No matter the age, gender, religious or political beliefs of the victim. This is because being sexually assaulted is a direct violation of who we are — it is the most physically intimate violation we survive. It can leave victims feeling helpless, hopeless, powerless, and, worst of all, full of shame.
I was raped in September of 2013.
The first few months after it happened, I was in deep unconscious denial about what had happened, telling myself things like, “it wasn’t violent enough to count as rape”, “I went on that trip with him willingly”, and “i didn’t fight hard enough/at all” (for years I "forgot" how I’d begged him to stop, my brain's way of trying to protect me from my trauma)…
The irony of those first few months of conscious denial is that I was writing poetry about sexual assault and self-harming.
When I came across and read those poems again a couple of years ago I was shocked — I don’t remember writing any of them yet they clearly spelled out what I had experienced. I shared some of them with my therapist. We talked a lot about the power of the brain to block trauma to help us survive the pain and fear.
Once I was able to consciously acknowledge what had happened to me I then spent years buried in shame. It was truly awful. It nearly killed me.
Thankfully, in the summer of 2018, I had a complete breakdown. I became actively suicidal as that pain and others came charging up into my awareness — my psyche was no longer able or willing to allow me to hide in fear. My pain was killing me. If I didn’t do the healing work required I wasn’t going to survive.
2018 was the most terrifying year of my life. The day after the 5th anniversary of that trauma I found myself in front of my new doctor saying, “I’m not safe from myself. I’m afraid. I need help.”
It was the beginning of my return to life.
Healing the shame has been the single most important aspect of this work to date.
What that man did to me, what he took, what he broke, none of that was my fault.
Even if I hadn’t said anything.
Even if I did willingly go on that weekend trip with him.
Even if I still loved my ex-boyfriend and was dating as a distraction and attempt to ‘get over’ someone I loved dearly.
None of it was my fault.
All of it is his fault, his shame to carry beyond the grave.
I never said ‘ok’ or ‘yes’ to anything that night. Thanks to trauma work, I now know I said the opposite. I did not give even a lukewarm form of consent.
Here’s a video explaining consent:
When consent is not given to a sexual act, that sexual act becomes assault.
The shame part comes in when we keep what has happened to us a secret — especially when we hide it from ourselves. Shame comes from believing the lie that we are to blame for what was done to us and that we are now, somehow, less lovable, trustable, worthy.
Shame is a liar.
Shame is defined as:
The problem arises when we, as victims, take on the responsibility for our assault. That is when we take shame off the shoulders of those who should be wearing it and place that toxic cloak over our own precious, tattered bodies.
This is the lie that shame tells us — that it is our fault.
This is the lie that destroys us.
The lie that keeps us a victim, when what we really need is to heal enough to become a survivor.
You are NOT at fault for the harm done to you.
There is absolutely nothing you did that makes you responsible for the violation(s) you were subjected to.
As I began to finally & fully tell my story — to myself, my therapist, my husband, and, eventually, the police, I began to heal my shame and reclaim my agency. I admit to still carrying pockets of shame over this assault. I may never fully release them all, but I am committed to continuing my healing work and offering myself my unconditional compassion. But, even if I die with some of this shame still lingering, it will never change the Truth that the shame is not mine to carry — it is his and his alone. He had no right.
He had no right.
They had no right.
The shame over your assault lies solely at the feet of those who perpetrated those acts. Let those monsters pick it up. Let them place it across their shoulders. Let the weight burden them and them alone.
Do what you can to learn about shame and sexual assault so that you can do the work of healing from it.
And, yes, it is completely unfair that you are left to do this work. It is utterly unfair that our culture creates so many covert and overt victim-blaming myths that we, the harmed, must bear this weight and you are allowed and encouraged to rage against this as fully and loudly as you need to… and then you must get back to the work of healing from this shame.
And releasing it is the only way to heal from it.
You deserve to release your shame and move from victim to survivor.
You deserve freedom from this shame.
You deserve release.
. . .
Find Help and Support
There is a national network of community-based rape crisis centers and local organizations who support the needs of sexual assault survivors. These centers exist across the United States to provide supportive services to victims of sexual assault. While the specific services available vary by location, services are confidential and may include:
accompaniment during medical exams and law enforcement interviews,
and referrals to other resources.
Every state and territory also has an organization designated to coordinate resources and represent that state or territory as its coalition.
NSVRC maintains a directory of organizations that lists state and territory sexual assault coalitions, victim/survivor support organizations, and local communities of color sexual assault organizations. Please contact your state or territory’s coalition to find local resources that provide services to survivors.
The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), organizes the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. The Hotline is a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center. You can call the Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or access RAINN’s online chat service.
Know Your Rights and Options
Victims of crime have rights that depend on the laws of the location (state, territory, tribe) where the crime occurred. Some of the laws that might apply to you if a person has committed the crime of sexual assault against you include:
Availability of a forensic exam (rape kit) at no cost to you
Confidential access to victim advocates
Time limits (statute of limitations) on certain legal actions
Mandated reporting of the assault if you are a vulnerable person (child or elder adult)
Confidential communication with service providers
Testing or storage of evidence kits
Possible financial compensation for you as a crime victim
It is also a good idea to contact a rape crisis center in the area where you were assaulted since they should be familiar with the laws that apply in their area. RAINN maintains an excellent database of state laws that can help you to understand what rights you have.
Katherine Grace (she/her/) is a survivor with a very sharp memory who is devoted to not repeating the past and helping others do the same. She writes about self-care & love, mental illness, gratitude, and the adventures of being an Autistic disabled woman. "It's all about seeking (and finding) the magic within our everyday mundane moments... and allowing ourselves the grace of being fully and imperfectly human."
If you benefit from this work and want to support her efforts and this website, please visit her Ko-Fi page. Thank you.