Over the past couple of weeks, the articles have geared towards figuring out how to prepare for surviving the up-coming holidays. We have discussed the fact that survivors of sexual violence may find it difficult to enjoy the impending holidays because they may be forced to spend time with the individual who abused them and or those who chose not to believe them. We have discussed the importance of learning to put yourself first, of being able to create healthy boundaries. Today, I think it would be important to address the guilt survivors may feel in trying to put themselves first, the guilt associated in trying to create healthy boundaries, the guilt that comes from your decision to want to ensure that your healing comes first.
Sadly, as mentioned before, the healing journey has to be a selfish one because you are learning to put you first, you are learning not to let the need to please everyone else drown out what you need. Work on understanding that what you need is to find your path and doing it your way. As we continue on, if you read something that triggers you or causes flashbacks, please stop reading. If you find that while you are reading your heart rate increases, you start feeling anxious, please stop.
The articles help to validate your feelings, thoughts and reactions about the assault you suffered. The articles are here to educate and help you figure out the side-effects and how to move from victim to survivor to thriver. The articles are here to help you understand what you have suffere and how to help you move to a place of healing. What is most important is learning yourself and what you need. Learning what your triggers are and how they affect you and then listening to your body and what it needs to be ok. I know this journey is difficult and time consuming. I know you wish there was a quick fix and that the decision could be made for things to be different and then it would just be. Unfortunately, it’s a process that takes time, baby steps.
Guilt is an emotion that you have probably become very acquainted with. If you were assaulted when you were young, you were made to feel like you have something to be ashamed of, something to feel guilty for allowing too happen, something that you allowed to happen that has now affected your family. You were made to feel guilty in an effort to ensure that you remained silent about the abuse you suffered. If your assault happened when you were older, you were made to feel guilty about how it happened. You were told that you allowed it to happen or caused it to happen by something you did. KNOW this is not true.
I know saying it versus you believing it is difficult but it should be said none-the-less. We live in countries that think that making victims and survivors feel guilty about being raped is ok. We live in countries that make it ok for perpetrators to continue assaulting women but not ok for women/men/children to feel safe sharing their stories. As a survivor of sexual violence, guilt may have been what kept you silent. It may have been what made you feel culpable in the criminal act committed against you. But there is no guilt for you to accept, you didn’t cause this, nor did you want it. You may have learned to feel guilty about doing what you needed, about making sure that you felt happy and began to heal. You were told repeatedly that your pain was insignificant, that what you needed was not important and that you should feel guilty for wanting things in your life to be different.
You were told that you should feel guilty for wanting the side-effects to disappear, for wanting to share your story, for wanting to have a trigger free life, for wanting to be supported and understood. You were made to feel guilty about wanting to place boundaries that told those who neglected your pain over being sexually violated, how they would be in your life moving forward. You were made to feel guilty for wanting to heal, for wanting to talk about your sexual assault, for wanting to be away from those who made your pain worse.
Let’s try to work on the guilt that has become woven into your being. As survivors we were taught repeatedly that what you need is secondary to what everyone else needs. So you grow up feeling guilty for wanting to heal, for wanting to limit the presence of certain people in your lives. Let’s work on the guilt so that we can begin to acknowledge that guilt is what you have been taught to feel for being a survivor of sexual violence because we live in a society that refuses to accept the issues surrounding sexual violence but locally and regionally.
Guilt may be one of the main emotions that surface when you think about what was done to you knowing that those you expected to support, care and understand are unwilling to and want you to feel guilty for wanting/needing things to be better. As a survivor, the guilt can initially be overbearing, you may feel like you have no right to want a better life. You may feel guilty for wanting to get help. You were sexually assaulted, against your will. You should not feel guilty for wanting to heal, for wanting to be happy, for wanting to feel empowered and in control. Guilt was used to control you, don’t let them continue.
You don’t have to be controlled by your past, your assault is not the sum total of who you are. It is one part of your life, a terrible part. Don’t let it dictate what happens for the rest of your life. I can say this from one survivor to another, the guilt can be debilitating, it will go against many things you have been told over the years/ after the assault. Work on letting go of it, work on acknowledging what you need to heal and be happy.
I want you to continue to work on acknowledging the fact that you are a victim/survivor of sexual violence. That you survived mainly due to your own strength, perseverance and resilience. You navigated being assaulted and dealing with after effects in the best way you knew how too. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for moving from victim to survivor, from moving from sadness, fear, depression, anger, etc to happiness, empowerment, joy, hope, safety and support. Work on not apologizing for what you need. Work on not feeling guilty for learning to make the decisions that put you first. Know that no one truly understands what you have survived and what you need to heal.
Know that the decisions you make for you are the first step to feeling empowered. Know that the path to healing is crowded with others on the same journey. You are not alone. Know we are here to listen and help. WE are all walking a similar path not the same but we all understand on some level your pain. You are not alone. I know it often feels that way. But know you are not. We are here to listen. Call if you need to vent, if you need company to just be on the phone. We are here to help. Text, email, call, you are not alone.
You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, you were violated. You don’t have to keep secrets you don’t want to keep to protect anyone. You don’t have to let anyone into your life who doesn’t understand or support you. Should you want to discuss or ask a specific question don’t hesitate to send it in. Please don’t give up. You deserve to be happy, you deserve to enjoy the holidays, you deserve to decide who you let into your life and how much. Our contact info is below:
Book: The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis
Souyenne Dathorne (724-9991), Velika Lawrence – Xylaw (723-6466)
Email: email@example.com – firstname.lastname@example.org
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 (Up & Running)
Telephone: 1-758-724-9991(sue) 1-758-723-6466(vel)