Survivors of trauma may find the concept of healing terrifying. You may be thinking of all the things that you need to face to start healing. All the things that you have to admit to yourself, memories that you have to pull out of the box you have stored and locked them in. The idea of beginning the healing journey is by no means an easy choice, but it is a necessary one. The journey will not be an easy one, it will require you to draw boundaries ensuring that you do what is best for you. Those boundaries may mean that you have to cut family and friends out.
The journey will require you to make decisions that while in your best interest, may require you to make difficult choices. While healing from any trauma is difficult, we will be focusing on healing from sexual trauma in this article. Before going any further, I’d like to point out that some of the information in this article can be upsetting or triggering, it can bring back unwanted memories, memories you may have forgotten or buried. It can cause flashbacks. It may have you thinking about making certain decisions or fearing making those decisions. If at any point you feel triggered while reading this article please stop. Take a breath, don’t push yourself to continue.
The article isn’t going anywhere. You can decide to read it at a later date or not at all. Remember to be gentle with yourself. Listen to your body and be aware of the signals it is sending you. Baby Steps are necessary on this journey. As we have been doing, we will continue to utilize the book “The Courage to Heal: A Guide for survivors of female sexual abuse” by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis as our guide.
Healing does not mean forgetting, it does not mean forgiving, it does not mean that you have to share your story publicly. Healing doesn’t mean being put in a position to do anything that you aren’t ready to do. What healing would do is help you begin to put the broken pieces of yourself back together. It means that you learn to put you first, that you do something for yourself regardless of what others think. Because your healing is specific to you and your needs. The healing journey represents a path on which your happiness and wholeness are the goals. Beginning the healing journey means that you get to decide what happens in your life and how you move forward. Healing will help you begin to mend who you are and remind you of who you were. It will help bring back some of the old pieces and fuse those with new pieces that have been formed due to your trauma.
Not all the changes that have happened as a result of your trauma are bad. The changes you made will be both good and bad. Healing will help you decipher which ones are good and which ones need replacing. Healing is a shot at having better control over the triggers, the flashbacks and the memories. Healing is a chance to learn how to cope better, to help you feel more empowered making your decisions. Healing represents what you need and the plan to achieve it. The desire to want to begin the healing journey generally presents itself when we have been trying to cope for far too long and we are tired of just trying to get through the day. It comes when we decide that what we have been doing is no longer working and we want and deserve more. Your decision to heal will not be an easy road, it will be painful but like anything worth having once we put the work in, are consistent and honest with ourselves, we have the potential to walk away happier and healthier.
With all the good that will come from beginning the healing journey it is important to also be honest with yourself about what you are about to undertake. For far too long you may have been put in a position to lie about that sexual trauma you suffered, you may have been coerced into believing that it didn’t happen the way that you think it did, that maybe you misunderstood what was done to you. You may have been asked to protect your abuser or your family. You may have been asked to forget, bury, deny, etc. about the sexual violence you suffered and the trauma that’s plaguing your life. Ultimately, you have been asked to forget about how you have been affected, to forget about what you need to feel safe, secure and supported, to forget that this awful thing happened to you and no one was willing to fight for you.
The healing journey will ask that you put you first which means fighting against what you have been told to do for so long, it means deciding who needs to be protected, you, your family or your abuser. There may be many difficult days in the beginning, there may be progress during the journey only to find that you have slipped. There will be days when you wonder what progress was made and whether you should even continue. It is important to understand that there are good and bad days through out the journey and after the journey. Healing will not get rid of what happened or those memories but it will help you to learn to love yourself again, to put yourself first, to be in the control of what happens as best as possible. Healing, while it won’t be easy, will help you learn to better control the things that control you right now. It will give you tools to help you remember that you are not what happened to you, that what occurred was not your fault, that you don’t own anyone but yourself a chance at happiness. Sharing your story whether with a stranger or someone you’re familiar with can be difficult, many of the steps that you will need to take will be difficult but they will help you feel more in control and more empowered, more healed, more ready to face every day.
My healing journey has not been easy, some days are better than others. Sometimes it feels like I’ve made great strides and other days I feel like I am just starting. It is a process and you need to be both patient with yourself aware of the progress you make. Reward yourself when you make progress, be aware of the days when you feel like you have slipped, on those days don’t be hard on yourself. Sit with it and try to understand what made you slip. Understanding what triggers you, what brings on the flashbacks will help you learn how to address situations when they arise. You are building tools that will help you as you go through each day. Above all, be Gentle and Kind to yourself. Sexual assault was forced on you in one way or another and there is nothing that you could have done to make someone think that forcing themselves on you was the right thing. Don’t let anyone shame you into thinking that you caused this. Healing is about learning to crawl before we walk, run and finally fly. Patience is key because nothing happens quickly on this journey.
Survivors of sexual violence 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 violent 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 have to acknowledge that sexual crimes against anyone are never the fault of the victim but that of the individual who committed the action. We live in a world where everyday women are fighting for the rights to their bodies, to be seen, to be heard, to be given the opportunity to decide what is best for them.
Sexual Violence against women is a problem in St. Lucia, in the Caribbean and in the world. Pretending it doesn’t exist is not making it less of a problem. It only serves to aid in the rapid growth of these types of crimes. 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 that Sexual Violence is something that happens to people, it does not define them, it is something that was done to them. Survivors, victims, remember you are a strong, beautiful, intelligent woman/child/man who has suffered a trauma through no fault of your own. You are not guilty of any crime, something was done to you against your will. Sexual Violence 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, 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 at:
Souyenne Dathorne, Velika Lawrence
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – email@example.com
Facebook: SURVIVING SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CARIBBEAN: https://www.facebook.com/pages/PROSAF-Surviving-Sexual-Abuse-in-the-Caribbean/165341356853908
Webpage: http://www.prosaf.org (under construction)
Telephone: 1-758-724-9991(sue) 1-758-723-6466(vel)