IN the last published article we discussed sharing your story when you are ready to. So often survivors of sexual violence are reproached for not sharing their stories sooner. Everyone (and by everyone I mean anyone other than the survivor) feels like they have a duty to weigh in and tell victims/survivors when and how they should be sharing their stories. We take for granted what it entails deciding to share a story in a climate where often the victim is treated like the perpetrator and the perp like a victim.
There is a huge amount of questioning thoughts and feelings that leave a victim/survivor wondering whether sharing their story right now is the right course of action. NO one knows when the right time to tell is, it truly depends on your support system, on whether you feel telling will help. Deciding to tell is a personal decision based on weighing the facts of your current situation. This week, I thought we would discuss not letting that past dictate your future.
As we continue on in this week’s article, you may feel triggered. You may get flashbacks, your breathing may increase, your heart may begin to race or your palms may get sweaty. If you start experiencing any symptoms, please stop, put the article down and take a moment to remind yourself that in this moment you are safe. Focus on the things around you to help bring you back to the present moment. The articles will always be available take the time to ensure that you are in a good space before continuing on. Learn to listen to what your body is saying.
I know not many of you understand this but what happens after you have lived through a traumatic experience like sexual violence is that apart from blaming yourself and in many ways disliking yourself, you are now constantly hyper aware because your body is waiting to act. You may start seeing danger behind every door, you may start to second guess your decisions, you may start to think that you are not ever going to feel powerful and happy again.
Surviving sexual violence makes you part of a club where although there are many living your truth, you often are not aware of who those individuals are. The shame that surrounds sexual violence creates enough pain and suffering and isolation that we don’t have those conversations with each other. How many of us feel safe and ready to share our stories with each other without being scared that we will be judged and blamed unfairly? So many survivors feel like things will never get better. So many survivors see their current situation as a permanent indication for how their future will be. I can only say from one survivor to another that while the journey to getting there isn’t easy, it is extremely helpful and needed. Life doesn’t have to be filled with fear and pain. Learn to be gentle with yourself always remembering that you deserve to be happy, that you can be happy.
To the survivors reading this article, to those supporting survivors sharing their stories, do it when and if you feel you are ready to. Ignore those who ask why you took so long, nine times out of 10, you trusted your guts about the reaction you thought you would have gotten and you were sadly proven right. You deserve to feel safe and ready sharing your story, you deserve to feel that sharing your story will not result in your being interrogated, villainized and further victimized. There is no correct time to share other than when you feel you’re ready. It took me until the age of 26 to truly revisit my sexual assault. It took me until the age of 26 to decide I shouldn’t be carrying the shame for something I didn’t do. It takes time, because after sharing your story there’s so much that’s unearthed. So take your time, this is your story to be told on your time when you feel ready.
To my fellow survivors, no matter what anyone tells you, you did nothing wrong, you didn’t cause your sexual assault, you have nothing to be ashamed of. No one can dictate how you heal, what you share, how you share. Don’t let this chapter in your book decide the ending. As a survivor, I know it can be difficult to see anything other than pain and despair, understand, this is not the end. You have survived this experience that was meant to break you, you are truly stronger than you have realized and given yourself credit for. PROSAF is always here to listen should you want/ need to share your story, to vent or to be able to say Me Too, we are here. This is your life, your healing journey. You get to decide the boundaries placed and who you let in. PROSAF will always be your safe space.
Souyenne Dathorne, Velika Lawrence, Miguelle James & Jayde Jean
Email: [email protected] – [email protected]
Facebook: SURVIVING SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CARIBBEAN: https://www.facebook.com/pages/PROSAF-Surviving-Sexual-Abuse-in-the-Caribbean/165341356853908
(UP & RUNNING)