Over the past few months we have been discussing how we cope with what has changed and in many ways, has been forever altered our lives. I think it is also important to accept that it takes time to move from wanting life to return to what it once was to accepting that there are now things in our lives that are different, and as such, will not allow us to return to how things were before the trauma occurred.
Surviving trauma leaves many wanting to get back to a time and place before the trauma occurred. Your life has been turned upside down, nothing is as it used to be and nothing truly will ever be the same again. As we proceed there may be things that I mention that trigger you, and there are things that will be discussed that may cause flashbacks. Should that happen, it is okay to put the article down, to decide to read it in parts or not to continue reading it at all. Remember, knowing and understanding your reactions to certain things is important. Listen to yourself first.
After a traumatic event you may feel the need to deny the trauma occurred. You may want to deny that you were affected by the trauma, or to believe that even if the trauma occurred, and even if you were affected by it, that you could get up and return to the life you had before. I can’t definitively say that you would not be successful in the attempt initially as it may very well work for some time, but the truth is that somewhere inside, you will feel and know that things have changed. You will be aware that you have changed, and that through no choice of your own, your life has been altered.
Traumatic experiences alter the lenses through which we see life. They alter our perceptions and how we react to things and to people. Trauma changes you. I am not saying that it changes you for the worst or the best, only that it changes you. Accepting that trauma has occurred can be difficult and the desire to want things to be as they once were is understandable. Many survivors of trauma find themselves fighting against what once was versus what is now. It is normal and understandable. It takes time, but it is important that you recognize that one of the first steps to healing is acceptance of what has changed and of how you have been affected. Once you have crossed that bridge, the next step is to determine where to go from there. What are our goals and next steps? Trauma has made things different, but not beyond repair. Survivors of sexual violence especially may struggle with this; be gentle with yourself.
Survivors of sexual assault need a supportive environment to begin the healing process. They need to believe and feel that they are part of a culture that doesn’t support individuals who commit sexual crimes. We have to be the difference we want to see in our country. We have to be willing to start to make change. We, at PROSAF, have acknowledged that violence against women is a problem in St Lucia and the wider Caribbean. We are here to begin the metamorphosis that is desperately needed. We are always here to listen and if you are not ready to come forward but need a listening ear. Feel free to contact us. Remember, sexual assault is something that happens to people, it does not define them. It is something that was done to them. Survivors, Victims, Thrivers… remember you are a strong, beautiful, and intelligent. You may have suffered a traumatic experience through no fault of your own, but you are not guilty of any crime. Something was done to you against your will. Sexual assault is something that happened to you, it does not define you. You are worthy of love and happiness. Always remember that you are not alone, and that you have nothing to be ashamed of. We are taking the baby steps necessary to make it better for all. Know you have a safe space in PROSAF. If you are interested in finding out more information about sexual violence and what you can do as part of this community, please feel free to contact us.