The Many Faces of Sexual Trauma

Have you heard about PTSD? What about Triggers, Sexual assault revictimization, secondary victimization, stigma, dissociation, grooming, stealthing, gaslighting? I hadn’t either until recently. I knew what it felt like to experience some of them but I didn’t have a word or language for them. It is very difficult to explain or describe what it’s like…

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Have you heard about PTSD? What about Triggers, Sexual assault revictimization, secondary victimization, stigma, dissociation, grooming, stealthing, gaslighting? I hadn’t either until recently. I knew what it felt like to experience some of them but I didn’t have a word or language for them. It is very difficult to explain or describe what it’s like to be a victim or survivor of sexual violence because first – no one experience is the same, and second – there are different factors that determine how survivors respond to their individual experience; and yet it remains profoundly stigmatized in our society – to the detriment of the millions of survivors dealing with the trauma.

Beginning with Childhood sexual abuse, a significant violation of the human spirit, crossing the sacred space of one’s own personal boundary profoundly interrupts the victims’ development and erodes their sense of identity, agency, trust, closeness, touch, and connection. Coming from the perspective of a child, there is an inability to understand the confusing disturbance that arrives from an insidious imbalance of power. Silence and shame breeds denial, which overtakes reason and the capacity to speak out and speak the truth, goes underground. When victims of sexual abuse reach adulthood, they struggle with intimate relationships, feelings of self-worth, safety and not believing they are deserving of love and happiness. Many, who have repressed their memories, are not certain where their feelings of lowliness come from, or how they adopted the harmful coping mechanisms they struggle with. Therapy may be the first time they are able to peel away the protective layers of denial and face their personal, abusive narrative.

There is a lot to learn about sexual violence and the affecting trauma. In fighting to end the scourge, while protests attempt to diminish negative attitudes, it is largely a reactive strategy, because it fails to promote more positive attitudes that are supported by facts. Education on the other hand, provides information so that the public can make more informed decisions about sexual violence. To showcase just how the horrors of trauma can and does manifest, I have compiled a series of stories examining the issue. It is far from a comprehensive overview — especially in a society like ours so full of trauma — it is a drop in the bucket.

He Was My Friend And He Raped Me.

I didn’t know there was wickedness in him somewhere, and he hid it so well. While we were friends, I told him of the kind of relationship I wanted and how I wanted to wait till marriage to have sex – he encouraged it and sounded like he wanted the same thing. I repeated it again when we started our relationship even though I felt I didn’t have to since he knew where I stood on certain things; he still seemed to be on the same page. I didn’t have issues inviting him over to our house because he visited a few times while we were friends and he was a perfect gentleman. But then, the first day he came to visit as a boyfriend, we were making out a little but things started getting out of hand, I yelled stop several times but he wouldn’t stop, I pushed him to get off but he wouldn’t stop and he raped me…

I Was Abused By My Godmother’s Daughter.

It happened when I was about 4 or 5 years old, my godmother’s children would always take me to stay with them at their house. One of the children, the third daughter, whenever am left alone with her would insert her finger or any object she saw that could fit, into my vagina. It kept happening until I was bold enough to stop visiting them. I didn’t tell anyone because I felt they won’t believe me.

It happened again with my cousin who always visited us back then. Whenever he visited, as a big cousin, my siblings and I would always go to greet him and play with him in his room, he would carry me because I was the smallest, until everyone would have left the room then he’ll start kissing me and touching me, as little as I was, I didn’t also tell anyone as I felt they won’t believe me and I also felt in a way it was my fault those things were happening to me, like I was inviting it and I was confused…

The Foreigner and the Taxi Driver

The foreigner got to know I was about leaving and said I couldn’t go like that, explaining that what we had taken was an oath, being privy to their secret and even the demonstration we did on our palms with saliva… if not cooled down through sex we will die, adding that previous people involved in this who did not cool the oath down before the next morning had swollen stomach and died from there. I busted into tears, begging him for some other way to cool the oath because I was a virgin and couldn’t have sex, the driver then said that he has a girlfriend in the state’s Uni he could go and have sex with but the man said it won’t work if he sleeps with someone else, that it’s only by sleeping with each other (the two of us who were involved) and then when the driver is done we should take a little of the sperm, do a cross sign on our foreheads saying “what I don’t know will not know me.” I cried my eyes out pleading with my whole life because I didn’t even have a boyfriend and have always wanted to give up my virginity to my husband on my wedding night but my plea fell on deaf ears. Finally, as our last resort in order not to die as a consequence of the oath the driver took me to a small guest house that had no light, just a bed with a side drawer which had candlelight on it and defiled me, painfully stole my pride. At that point i wished I had died, I sobbed in my own blood and couldn’t be consoled, even when the bastard of a driver begged that other guests and the staff of that place would hear me…

I Was a Virgin and After 4 Years it Still Hunts Me

When I got inside and told him, he went to get a pen and even though something felt wrong I tried to suppress it, I started praying in my mind for GOD’s protection and before I could count to 20, he asked me to sit on his bed and started touching my thigh and he told me to get comfortable that he won’t bite. Before I knew it, he removed his clothes and pinned my arms down, and I started crying because this guy was big (physically). I cried and begged while he was trying to unzip my trouser, when I tried to stop him he tore my trouser(thank God for the jacket I wore that day) , after he tore my trouser, he tore my bra and slacked my top from pulling it. I continued crying and begging, that was when he put a pillow on my face because I was screaming, he pressed the pillow for minutes and when I felt myself loosing breath, I started struggling with all I had left in me…

Silence and isolation breeds shame and hopelessness in the hearts of survivors. But in a safe, trusting, and nurturing environment like within a close, loving family, in a community, or in therapy, individuals who have endured this horrific trauma can begin the process of healing and wholeness. As a people living within a set community, we need to listen, believe, and respond in ways that can help build and mend the intense damage that was perpetrated on survivors. The power of our compassionate presence can offer a therapeutic relationship that is not tainted with shameful connection. Speaking out about experiences of sexual violence is powerfully healing and learning all there is about the affecting trauma can empower you, survivors, to take back your lives and begin the process of recovery.

Stories about sexual violence are often met with skepticism, shame, and blame, how can we change that? how can we make it easier for survivors and victims to speak out?

Responses

  1. CeeCee
    “Let’s teach that loving isn’t always loving. Like when you loved the hamster so much that it died. Some adults do that too. Too much, the wrong way. These are ‘Stay away’ zones on your body. These are ‘Stay away’ people. You don’t have to obey all adults. Not even parents. Disagree respectfully. Run, if you need. Shout, if you need. Adults can be bad too.”
    ― Deborah

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