Live Through This

We’re Called Survivors Because We’re Still Here

A few of the things you will walk through on your way to “OK.”

Illustration by Sonja

First let me say this: I am so, so sorry about what happened to you. What might still be happening to you.

If you have been sexually assaulted—recently, or a long time ago, when you were little, or this year—then I’m writing this piece for you. And, like many people to whom you may speak about this, my first response is that I honestly don’t know what to say. I can’t tell you that I know what you’re going through: I don’t. Your experience is yours, not mine, and I can’t assume that I know all about it. You get to have your own feelings. And I know that I, personally, really hate it when people tell me that some awful feeling or situation of mine is “going to be OK.” Because, sure, it’s going to be. But right now, it’s not. So I don’t know when the “OK” starts, so don’t talk to me about it, because right now I want to talk about right now.

So, I’m definitely not going to tell you that. What I can tell you is that I am so, so sorry that it happened to you. And I can tell you that it happened to me, too. I was sexually assaulted. And in this, I am not unlike many, many other women, including many of the women I respect and admire most, and many of my friends. (It has happened to a lot of men, too, but a lot more women.) And, having talked to those friends a bit, and having gone through some of this myself, I know that there are a few things nobody talked me through, and that I want to talk through with you.

It is, actually, going to be OK. But it’s probably not OK right now. And right now, you probably have no idea when the “OK” is going to start. So you don’t have to be OK right now. You are going to get yourself there, eventually. Here are a few of the things you will walk through, on your way.

1. Solitude

You are not alone in this. But for a while, you will probably feel as if you are. I mean, why wouldn’t you? What your attacker did to you was completely outside the range of what we think of as “normal human behavior.” Or even cruel human behavior. When cruel people dislike somebody, they normally just curse, or yell at them, or something. They don’t force sex on that person. But someone forced sex on you, and maybe that person has done it more than once, or maybe more than one person did it; that’s an experience that’s completely outside of anything we think of as “normal.” You may even think that you must have done something bad to make it happen, or that you are a bad or weird person because it happened, or that it couldn’t possibly have happened to anyone else.

Well: it could have. (It has.) None of this had anything to do with you personally. The most important thing, for me, when I needed to understand this, was looking at statistics. If you are a girl, you’re not alone: One in four girls is sexually assaulted before the age of 18, and girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be sexually assaulted. And if you are a boy, you’re not alone, either: up to one in six boys reports being sexually assaulted before the age of 16. If your attacker was or is someone you know, or a family member, that can feel uniquely terrible. And it is terrible. But it’s not unique, so you’re not alone there, either: most rape victims know their attackers, and child sexual abuse is perpetrated by family members about 34% of the time.

These facts are very scary for a lot of people to think about. But they will keep you from feeling like a freak, or like you—and you alone—“deserved” the sexual assault. Sexual assault is very common. One-in-four-girls-level common. I’m guessing that if you gave a plane ticket to one out of every four girls in America, and made them all fly to some desert island so that you could see what they have in common with one another, you wouldn’t be able to find a single universally shared factor. So, no: this was not about you. And no: you are not alone.

2. Confusion

Right now, you may have some trouble believing that what happened to you was sexual assault. You may feel that it was “not violent enough,” or that you “didn’t fight back hard enough,” or that it didn’t look like the kinds of sexual assault you’ve seen on TV or in movies. This is an extremely common reaction, even among adults, and even among people who have actually experienced very violent assaults: forced sex and molestation are so scary that your brain often refuses to fully acknowledge them. One woman I spoke to described her experience, and then told me that “if it had happened to anyone else, I would call it rape.” That’s not an instance of this woman being wrong; that’s a demonstration of how shock works. Over and over, it has been shown that people who experience overwhelming, frightening, shocking events—soldiers in war time, people whose relatives die suddenly, sexual assault victims—feel, at first, as though what has happened is somehow not real.

Let’s make a deal, you and I. I’m going to describe a few common forms of sexual assault. In exchange, you will follow the very simple advice I have for you at the beginning of the next paragraph. Sexual assault can consist of any of the following things: If someone touched your genitals or your anus with any part of their body, or any object, without your permission, that’s sexual assault. If someone touched, kissed, or fondled any part of your body without your permission, that’s sexual assault. If someone threatened to get you in trouble or hurt you unless you did something sexual with them, that’s sexual assault. If someone did something sexual to you when you were unable to resist—if you were trapped, or unconscious, or very drunk or high and hence not able to understand or control what was happening—that’s sexual assault.

That list is incomplete. But here’s the most important part: if you think you may have been sexually assaulted, or if you think you were probably sexually assaulted, or if you would call it sexual assault if it happened to somebody else, you need to talk to a doctor about it, and ask her/him to call the police. Call a rape crisis hotline—RAINN is the biggest and most easily accessible—and ask them what to do and where to go; if letting your parents know about this is dangerous (for example, if you were attacked by a parent) remember to ask the hotline if the hospital is required to notify them. If you’re really concerned about privacy, don’t give your name or phone number when you call. Seriously. RAINN even says this on their web page; they might be required to tell authorities what’s happened to you if you’re under 18, but they can’t, unless you tell them who you are.

If the assault happened very recently, if it is at all possible, go straight to the hospital and ask for a sexual-assault forensic exam, so you will have proof against your attacker. Don’t shower, don’t change, don’t read the rest of this article: GO. If it happened a long time ago, then go to a therapist. This, again, can be complicated when you are young; therapists normally can’t tell anyone else what you say, but if they think you’re in danger, especially from your parents, they might be required to notify someone. So ask the therapist which information they can share, and what they must share, and with whom, before you start talking. Get an honest, plainly worded deal you can both agree to. When you talk, you don’t have to call what happened “sexual assault” if you don’t want to. Just describe what happened, as best you can, and then you and the therapist can decide what to call it afterward.

This is all a bit scary, but I recommend that you talk to these people for two reasons. First, I don’t know who your attacker was, so I don’t know who else you can talk to. And second: no matter what your situation, you need support from people who understand sexual assault and can help you heal. Sometimes people don’t understand sexual assault, or are cruel about it, so you absolutely do not have to talk about what happened with people you don’t trust. But therapists and rape-crisis counselors are hired to understand. Right now, you are dealing with something that can have a lot of long-term consequences, and you can’t always see those consequences clearly when you’re living through it. You need to be in touch with at least one person whose first priority is keeping track of you, and making sure that you are OK.

3. Pain

Pain is a message. You are probably going to experience a fair amount of it, so it’s important that you know this. No matter how bad it is, pain is not a judgment, or a punishment, or a weakness: pain is a message, from the part of you that wants to live, telling you that something is wrong.

After a sexual assault, pain can take many different forms: You can be overwhelmed with emotion, or you can be completely numb. You can be angry all the time, or sad all the time, or scared all the time, or all three. You can have vivid flashbacks about the assault, or you can have trouble recalling it. Sometimes all of this happens to the same person. Consensual sex can become scary or complicated in ways it wasn’t before—some people start to have a lot more sex, some people have a lot less, some people can only have it in really specific ways for a while, lots of people just feel differently about or during sex, even if it doesn’t seem like anything has changed. Some people seem fine unless they’re exposed to one specific thing that reminds them of the assault: a touch, a joke, a song, a place—for someone I knew it was a day of the year. No matter what form your pain takes, it often looks really messy. But don’t let anyone tell you that it’s wrong. I don’t care which jerk told you to “handle it” “better”; you are receiving a message, right now, from a very necessary part of yourself. The message is, “I want to live. Get me some help.” It’s urgent. That is why it hurts.

The problem, with this kind of pain, is that it can last. It can follow you around, wake you up at night, and not let you sleep. All you can think about is the pain, and you start to forget what it’s like to not be in pain, and you will try anything, anything, to make it go away. Here’s the problem, though: when all you can think about is pain, you are not going to be making the most clear-headed decisions. And when you will try anything that promises to make the pain go away, some of the available solutions are really stupid. People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to become alcoholics. People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to develop an unhealthy relationship with drugs. So if you’re not sober or drug free right now, try being sober. Get help to do that, if you need it. See how things change. I don’t say this to be judgey, and I did in fact drink before I turned 21, so I’m not saying it because I’m an old-timey schoolmarm who doesn’t get the kids and their parties. Drugs and alcohol are just very bad for people in crisis. You really need your whole brain right now, so that you can get better. Anything you use regularly can create long-term changes in how you process emotion—pot is bad for some people’s anxiety, alcohol exacerbates depression—and it’s all really easy to overuse when you’re freaking out. Also: getting wasted doesn’t take away the pain; it just makes you temporarily unaware of it. So if you have serious problems to deal with, and you’re putting drugs or alcohol on top of that, well: it’s sort of like turning on the television to distract yourself from the fact that your house is on fire. The fire will only get bigger. You will only get hurt. But you won’t notice the danger, for a long time, because you’re watching the show. Try being sober, if you’re not already, and see if you get better at putting out fires.

I am assuming, here, that you already know about the even worse option, for making the pain go away. This option is not an uncommon way for survivors to try and resolve their pain: in a study of rape survivors specifically, one in three had considered suicide. So it’s not strange if you’ve thought about it. But if you are thinking of killing yourself, or if you are hurting yourself in any way, you need to talk to a therapist about this, or (again) call a hotline, right now. Those people can talk through your specific situation with you, and I can’t. They have years of training, and I don’t. I will just tell you this: no matter what is happening, the possibility of change exists. Most people who want to die don’t actually want to stop existing; they want the pain to stop existing. They feel powerless over the pain, and they think it will never end. But there is literally no one more powerless than a dead person. As long as you are alive, there is something else you can try; there is some new way you can try to take your power back. Dead people can’t try anything.

Pain is a message. What it says is: “I want to live. Get me out of this.” Don’t ever try to shut that voice up.

4. Being OK

One day, you’re not going to think about this every day. It may be hard to believe that. I know that whenever something really bad happens to me—not just big traumas, like sexual assault, but also relatively normal but awful things, like losing a job or a relationship—I’m convinced that I won’t ever get over it. And in some ways, I never do. I’ll never have that job again. I’ll never be loved by that person again. For the rest of my life, my life will be different, because something was lost. And I’ll never go back to being someone who hasn’t been sexually assaulted. That’s something else I lost. A big something. My life would be different if that hadn’t occurred.

These things still hurt, sometimes. All of them do, the little ones and the big ones. They all still sometimes break my heart. But I’m older now than I used to be. So I know, now, what happens when the heartbreak is over.

The end of heartbreak is not, generally, big. It doesn’t announce itself. No one comes to your door with a brass band and crowns you King of Over It and plays the Glorious Anthem of Recovery. It’s just this: one day, you’ll be sad about what happened. You’ll sit there, with the sadness, expecting it to break you; you’ll expect to go right back to the heart of the pain, the messy animal howling part that you were always so sure would never go away. And then you won’t go back there. And in that moment, you’ll realize something: you haven’t actually been there for a long time.

“Being OK” isn’t a celebration. “Being OK” isn’t a guarantee that you’ll never feel the pain again. “Being OK” is summed up in six words: that happened a long time ago.

This has changed you. It is always going to be something that has changed you, for the rest of your life. It will pop up in ways that surprise you. There will be days when the pain is back. If you have post-traumatic stress, you are not going to have an easy time of this. You are going to have to walk through more than most to get to “OK,” and you may have to keep walking back to it, over and over. But you are not alone, and help exists, and “the rest of your life” is hopefully going to be a very long time. One day, all of this will have happened a long time ago. That’s what I can tell you, about being OK.

And the fact is, you are not ruined. You are not broken. You are not forbidden to be OK. I actually felt guilty about this, when I realized it was happening to me—I thought there was some rule that meant I would only ever get to be bravely suffering and sort of all right, and that if I were actually happy, it would mean that I had betrayed myself and my experience. But this is not a 19th-century novel about a fallen woman; this is your actual life. No rule or event can forbid you from being happy. You can get past “OK.” You can get way past “OK.” You can actually get to “great.” That’s where a lot of the sexual assault survivors I’ve met have ended up: GREAT. So I’m not telling you that you have to be happy now. I’m telling you that it’s possible, and common. And one day, you might end up there, and not even realize it until you take a second to look around.

No matter where you are, though, you are not drowning, right now. But you are in the water, and it’s dangerous. So you have to grab the rope that leads you back to the boat. I am not the rope; I am talking to you so that you know the rope exists; I am talking to you so that you have a few ideas of how to make it to “OK” again. You’re out there in the water, and I’m just telling you to look around for something that’s going to save you.

Because primarily—here is the big secret, the part I wish someone had told me—you are what’s going to save you. Doctors can help you, and you’ll be the one who visits them. People can be trustworthy and capable of helping you heal, if you reach out—you’ll be the one who reaches. You may need to get past a bad relationship with a chemical, or a bad relationship with yourself—you’ll be the one who gets past it, the only one in the world who has that power. And maybe, on some days, you are going to literally save your own life.

I know you can do this. I know it. Because look at what happened to you. Look at what you’ve been through. And then, take a second to notice this part: it happened, and you are still here. Not just here, but reading an article on the internet about how to save yourself! And you’ve made it to the second to last paragraph! And it is a LONG article.

We call one another “survivors.” We don’t often take the time to think about what that means. What it means is “the people who are still here.” What it means is that you faced down something that no one should ever have to. And that even this terrible thing was not enough to stop you. What it means is that you are incredibly strong, even in the moments when you don’t know that. What it means is that you are not drowning—there is a rope, a lifeline, and it will bring you back to the boat, and back to safety. What it means is that you are the rope. Grab on. ♦

69 Comments

  • lilghostie January 6th, 2012 3:30 PM

    THANK YOU! it’s good to know i’m not alone sometimes. It took me a long time to realize what happened to me was sexual assault and by the time I fully made that realization it seemed too late, I had even hung out with my rapist after the attack because he convinced me it was not rape. It’s been over a year and a half and I still feel that confusion and anger. I’m fucking angry about it every day. It’s hard, to anyone who has gone through anything like I have I want to let you know that OK is hard. I’m getting there, it’s just really hard- I’m sure others will understand that as well. Thankyou so much for this article!!!

  • noumi January 6th, 2012 3:43 PM

    Really thankful for this article. Even if what happened to me was a long time ago, it just keeps popping into my head once in a while ( well a lot lately!) Maybe you’re right, you can’t never forget and maybe that’s what make us stronger the fact that we survived.
    Thanks again. It’s good to be reminded we’re not alone.

  • Erin McPhee January 6th, 2012 4:26 PM

    Thank you for publishing this article.

  • Erica January 6th, 2012 4:35 PM

    Ive never read anything like this before on this subject its kinda hard cause you dont want to go searching for information on it after its happened to you because it feels weird you dont want to accept it but you have to after a certain point. This happen to me with a member of my own family that i thought i could trust. Makes me feel good to think of myself as a survivor. Thanks Rookie <3

  • Claudia January 6th, 2012 4:53 PM

    For those people who were never not sexually assaulted: read this. I have never been assaulted in my entire life, but I read this article anyway. It’s a good thing to keep in the back of your mind and a good thing to come back to if this DOES happen to you. Be prepared.

  • Stephanie January 6th, 2012 4:59 PM

    Thank you so much for this, Sady. It brought tears to my eyes, but also made me feel incredibly empowered. Spring of my sophomore year of high school I was in a relationship that was emotionally and sexually abusive. That was almost seventeen years ago, but I do still have those emotional triggers: songs, places, smells. This piece is being bookmarked for those days that I need a reminder that I *am* still here and how to keep surviving. Seriously, thank you.

  • rojaporcelana January 6th, 2012 5:00 PM

    Thank you so much for this posting… I would love to make it into a zine format and post it for free online, if that is OK… or if the author wants to do that =)

  • Jamie January 6th, 2012 5:10 PM

    really important. this article makes me proud to be a part of rookie.

  • wikipediabrown January 6th, 2012 5:38 PM

    I think this is exactly what I’ve needed to hear for years. Thank you. You have no idea. Or maybe you do.

  • allydoubleyou January 6th, 2012 5:43 PM

    Thank you. As a victim, a former sexual assault counselor, and a human. This was an amazing post.

  • Nina January 6th, 2012 6:11 PM

    Thank you so much for this article.
    What happened to me happened when I was quite young and because I didn’t really know what had happened or who to talk to, it has messed up a few aspects of my life.

    I have yet to tell someone about it, but I am thankfully doing okay and this post has made me consider talking to someone even more.

  • Cerise January 6th, 2012 6:41 PM

    Thank you.

  • EmilyJn January 6th, 2012 6:42 PM

    Like Claudia, this has never happened to me though it happened to my dad so thank you for helping me to understand a little more Rookie

  • caitlinkay January 6th, 2012 7:10 PM

    this was something i started to read during my break at work but had to stop because i was already crying so much. thank you. nobody has said these things to me before, this article was the last thing that broke down this door of denial about “that thing at that party last summer” and i cannot thank you enough for that. just wow, i want a new, better way to say this but i cannot find words so i will just say it over again; thank you, thank you thank you”

  • TessAnnesley January 6th, 2012 7:22 PM

    amazing
    i cannot get over how many things get published on rookie like this that are so important
    (small side note: sonja’s illustration is BEAUTIFUL)

  • MissKnowItAll January 6th, 2012 7:58 PM

    Dear Rookie,
    Thank you for writing this and every other thing on this website. Thank you for never judging or putting down anyone on this website. Thank you for talking about the things that no other teen magazine wants to talk about. Thank you for making me feel like I;m not the only one.
    Sincerely
    MissKnowItAll

  • I.ila January 6th, 2012 8:18 PM

    This is a wonderful article. I have one question; what exactly is the difference between sexual assault and rape? Is sexual assault the more general term?

  • Gabrielle January 6th, 2012 8:40 PM

    Thank you.
    I hope things have been resolved.

  • savethecrushed January 6th, 2012 9:29 PM

    I’m crying right now. This is beautiful, exactly what I needed to hear tonight. It’s just been one of those nights. It’s been two months and one/two days, depending on how you look at it. I feel guilty for still being upset. I should be over it by now, right? This helped me know that maybe okay for me right now isn’t necessarily everyone else’s okay. Maybe my okay for right now just means that I’m breathing. And you know? That’s okay. I can make it. I can do this.<3

  • drpatti January 6th, 2012 10:29 PM

    I am so impressed with all of you wonderful beautiful girls. And I am so glad that Rookie has taken the time to write about sex abuse and deal with it. I am a psychologist and wrote the book “Invisible Girls: The Truth About Sexual Abuse” I have also started Girlthrive which is the only organization that honors all girls who are incest survivors with scholarships for education and creative endeavors. I would be very happy to donate some copies of “Invisible Girls” to Rookie if girls do want more info about healing and thriving after sex abuse. Again, thanks for bringing this out in the open and thanks for this wonderful zine Rookie! xo dr. patti
    http://www.girlthrive.com

  • ravenflamingo January 7th, 2012 12:50 AM

    Wow, I can’t believe how many people have commented that they were sexually assaulted, it makes me very sad. This was a wonderful article and I feel for anyone who has ever had to deal with something like this.

  • AndieP January 7th, 2012 1:03 AM

    I think a big part of me still hasn’t admitted some things about what happened. Especially admitting what it was. I think I’ve been holding it off for way too long and the fact that this article has me on the verge of tears is proof. Thank you.

  • Paper Moon January 7th, 2012 1:37 AM

    Thanks Rookie & Sonja.

  • Calgary January 7th, 2012 1:57 AM

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I’ve never been sexually assaulted, but it’s good to know these thing, and I feel like a lot of it can be applied to other things as well. I cried pretty much the entire time I was reading this.

  • whoopingcrane January 7th, 2012 2:08 AM

    I’ve been frequenting this amazing website for a good month now and have finally been provoked to set up an account.

    Thank you so much for this piece. It was so informed and well-thought out and, well, real. The part where you added that pain was in fact a message that you want to get better made me tear up. I think, after the fifth instance of sexual assault in my life, I didn’t know that I could want things. I think it is important to remind ourselves that our subconscious mind or our bodies, even, are capable of telling us things that maybe our rational minds don’t know how to process.

    I was so inspired by this and by Rookie Mag, constantly, all the time, everyday, everywhere. Thank you.

  • KayKay January 7th, 2012 2:44 AM

    Although I have never been sexually assaulted, I can feel the pain and horribleness of it through this article. That’s how fantastic it is.
    I now understand why my mother worries when I go out at night with friends, why she warns me about being careful with alcohol (where I live we’re allowed to drink beer & wine with 16, so it’s legal), why she doesn’t allow me to go to bars or clubs.
    I can’t even begin to imagine how it must be like, to have yourself physically and emotionally violated like that.

  • sea salt January 7th, 2012 2:48 AM

    I was diagnosed with PTSD at age 7 after being sexually abused by my dad for four years and this article definitely resonated with me. Thanks so much for sharing this piece of yourself.

    • Anaheed February 1st, 2012 3:44 AM

      Oh, sea salt. So much love to you.

  • Joannetje January 7th, 2012 3:04 AM

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve been sexual assaulted by a man 40 years older than me, when I was 14 and 15 years old. He was like a father figure for me and until now I’ve never trusted an older man, not even my own father. This is really empowering, thank you. (:

    • Anaheed February 1st, 2012 3:45 AM

      God, I’m so sorry that happened to you, and so happy you’re here with us. All of these comments are killing me, you guys! BIG LOVE ALL AROUND. Rookies are strong.

  • wemisswhatweneverhad January 7th, 2012 3:05 AM

    Thank you. So much

  • atheist January 7th, 2012 8:00 AM

    Thank you, Ms. Doyle, for this excellent article about surviving sexual assault. It reminds me of my fiance, who was sexually assaulted by her father as a child. She’s angry that he still refuses to acknowledge what he did. It is a situation I have had to try to understand as best I can. This article helps.

  • thekitties23 January 7th, 2012 9:16 AM

    Thank you so much for this article. I thought I would never cry like this again but Rookie has showed me that I am stronger then I ever was. I was molested when I was nine and have pushed myself to continue living since.I grew up with severe depression that no one has known about and have drug abused. The pain that I suffered as a little girl will never leave but I know that I can survive it. For all you girls stay strong, there’s always something to live for. I am proud to say that I’m happy and this article has helped me understand that. Life is short and some sadly grow up faster then others but that only makes you stronger. <3

    • Anaheed February 1st, 2012 3:46 AM

      <3 back you to times a million!

  • Emma S. January 7th, 2012 9:26 AM

    This is so important. Grateful to be a part of something so honest and good. Love you, Rookie.

  • iamfashion January 7th, 2012 10:57 AM

    I am reading this with tears in my eyes. I was raped at the age of 18 and it changed the course of my life completely. I was all set to go to university in London, I had good friends and I was really happy. Its funny how one night can ruin your whole life. I am now 24 and I have never been in a normal relationship, I drink far more than I should and this year I have only just found the confidence to go to uni. I was too scared to tell anyone what happened for years as I knew my mum would make me go to the police and I was terrified. If I could go back in time however I would tell someone. Please if you are going through this get help. I look at the state my life is in now and it kills me that I may never have the life experiences that friends of mine do

  • sevenofnine January 7th, 2012 7:25 PM

    Thank you so much for this article. This happened to me when I was 22 by a cop hired to protect me from an obsessive and physically abusive boyfriend. I felt as if I lost every bit of power I had. I suffered from PTSD for years after that. It took time, lots and lots of time, but I got help and it did get better. One of the things that helped me was taking self-defense classes and in doing so, I reclaimed my power.
    Sonja is right, find someone to talk to. If you take the first step to help yourself, there are so many people who will help you with the next step, and the one after that. Tavi, my deep deep respect for creating Rookie. You rock!!!

  • Guan January 7th, 2012 11:03 PM

    Thanks for the article. I’ve read through it (it was really long I have to say) and what you said is so inspirational. I didn’t experience sexual assault, but I got rejected by almost all the colleges I applied last year. This, though seemed to be a trivial and ‘period” thing to my friends who went to better schools, is a trauma to me that I’ve been struggling to get over for a long time. I felt comforting that someone identified the symptoms and roots of my feelings, but more importantly, that the fact I feel almost the same with a sexual assault victim is a shocking wake up call of how ridiculous I’ve been to let myself indulged in such a inconsequential experience. So thanks you, for not only talking to those you intended to, but also helping someone out there having other troubles.

  • ceruleanblue January 8th, 2012 12:23 PM

    Despite being a reader for a while now I wasn’t signed up to Rookie, but I felt I absolutely needed to just to say thank you so much for this article. I was sexually abused multiple times at the age of fourteen and it has influenced my life in so many ways. It’s really good to read an article like this with so many responses to it. It really really helps knowing that (unfortunately) so many young ladies have also gone through the same awful thing.

    The part of this that really struck a chord was ’2. Confusion’, it is really easy to belittle your own abuse because of the shock it causes. So much so that I’ve played down my own abuse to most of the people in my life, I really don’t think anybody in my life (even my very best friends) realise how much it has affected me. Don’t be afraid to admit the abuse, don’t be modest and belittle the problem. You’re allowed to be cut up about it and talking to people will help … even if that does seem like the scariest option.

  • ibelieve January 8th, 2012 2:27 PM

    When I was a lot younger, I used to take swimming lessons at a neighborhood pool where a few boys would drag me underwater and touch me when the instructor wasn’t looking. I was embarrassed at the time, and the memory just came back to me, about 8 years later. I’ve always felt like I didn’t have any right to be upset about how I was violated, but now I understand that, while I wouldn’t compare myself to a rape victim or a victim of very violent assault, my body is my own and no one had any right to do that to me. Thank you for this article.

  • kelsey January 8th, 2012 4:56 PM

    Wow. If you wonderful Rookie people have ever wondered if this thing is really worthwhile…

  • ernie January 9th, 2012 8:47 AM

    Thank you. I didn’t even understand some of the things I was feeling or thinking until I read this.

  • Leeann January 9th, 2012 3:49 PM

    I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus thanking Sady for this. It’s honest, inspiring, beautiful and, like Emma and others have already said, it makes me very proud to be a part of Rookie.

    I also want to recommend the book “The Courage to Heal” by Ellen Bass, which I read because Kathleen Hanna said it saved her life multiple times as she was dealing with her own abuse. It’s written for female survivors of sexual assault, but is a wonderful read for their allies and loved ones too — it’ll help you understand what survivors go through and how to best support them. As a physical abuse survivor, I found it unbelievably comforting and it helped me come to terms with a ton of stuff too, it’s really an amazing book. You can get it used through Amazon; I got my copy out of the library.

  • lark January 9th, 2012 11:15 PM

    what an inspiring group of people!

    To this I would add a few more:

    If you just had a good day don’t forget to realize that you just had a good day.

    There’s nothing wrong or weird about being proud about surviving. You didn’t do anything to deserve this burden but you are certainly doing work to undo it!

    If you have recently been sexually assaulted/raped/abused talk to a therapist soon! There is a correlation between how long before someone finds a qualified professional and who gets PTSD. Sorting sexual violence is no easy matter.

  • frank January 10th, 2012 6:15 AM

    By far the most empowering article on the subject i have ever read, thank-you rookie.

  • missmadness January 10th, 2012 5:38 PM

    thank you.

  • elphie January 11th, 2012 10:51 AM

    Thank you, I’m glad to know we’re all still here.

  • rubysoho January 11th, 2012 2:47 PM

    Thank you for telling your story. Anyone struggling through the same, please watch this spoken word poem about the same issues. It empowers all women, but especially those affected by abuse. The last poem she recites is what I’m referring to.

    http://youtu.be/bGk3-OJX7KE

  • Madalena January 12th, 2012 2:49 AM

    Thank you Sady for writing this wonderfully honest and inspiring article. Thank you Rookie for providing a safe space that reflects the multitude of girls’ identities and experiences.
    I am a survivor of sexual assault. 5 years ago, I never thought I would call myself a survivor.
    If you need more help “grabbing your own rope,” I recommend reading a “Dear Sugar” article about just that:
    http://therumpus.net/2010/07/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-44-how-you-get-unstuck/ (Dear Sugar advice columns are awesome!)
    Also, the book “Succulent Wild Woman” by Sark helped me through some harder days and nights.
    So much love!

    • Cherries April 23rd, 2012 7:15 PM

      I found SWW by Sark in a charity shop and i picked it up because it was so wildly colourful and I bought it not knowing what it’s about, but then I started reading and it appealed to me =) I hope to one day make a book like that, just for myself, wouldn’t that be fun? =P if only I were better with words!

  • Darcey January 12th, 2012 8:02 AM

    Really amazing & helpful article. More on point than anything I’ve read about the topic. I’ve felt like I’m drowning, with no land in sight. To hear you’ve felt this and more of what I’ve felt, is validating. I thank you so much. Now, to find myself good help….

  • ebubble97 January 12th, 2012 12:01 PM

    Someone close to me recently confided in me about this. I stumbled upon this article when browsing through Rookie entirely by accident and it really made me stop and think a little. Thank you for writing this article and giving those who have had the fortune not to experience something like this so far in their life a little more understanding about such an important topic. Thank you.

  • luca January 24th, 2012 10:30 PM

    i am slowly finding a voice. small and quiet, for sure. but grateful. thank you.

  • Lilacs January 25th, 2012 1:58 AM

    This is so weirdly well timed, gosh.
    I was abused as a girl by the adult son of a family friend. For years I slipped between not thinking about it, slightly touching on it and saying it happened to everyone (“It was just Playing Doctor” Only men do not fucking play that game with children), or becoming so afraid of the images that I convinced myself I was a person who makes it up for attention and then believes it’s true-which is silly because I never told a soul. But a while ago, a guy I had been intimate with, who has a girlfriend in Paris, flew into a fury with me because I told a friend about it. It had been an attempt to admit to the guilt and to normalize the idea of being sexual with someone. As things go, he told an exfriend of mine, she told the guy. Over the phone he blindsided me into making, he denied it all. That I had made the onetime thing up, told me I was lying, like he could convince me I hadn’t been there. That I was crazy, couldn’t understand why I would do this, that he never wanted to see me, whoreslutwhore. I was apologizing, confused. I felt powerless. I felt the truth being ripped away from me again.
    The memories came rushing back. But this time? I told myself the truth. I’m OK. Just like you said. I thought it would mean I was broken and damaged and that it would define who I was if I admitted to it. But the truth sets you free, I swear it. Yes. This happened. To me. It hurt, it still does. It still affects me, but it does not define me. Not at all. Thank you for this article. It is tender, but it is strong. Rather like a survivor, I should think.

    • Anaheed February 1st, 2012 3:55 AM

      Well, you are just awesome!

    • Cherries April 23rd, 2012 7:12 PM

      YOU, my fellow woman, make me very proud to be a fellow survivor. Very well put =)

  • ManonH January 25th, 2012 5:45 AM

    Thank you very much! I felt really terrible today. Like this feeling is never going away, i am doing everything i can. I talk about it, i don’t talk about it. Somedays are okay. But when i have a day like today…. Just waking up, feeling terrible about it, not knowing why because nothing triggered it. I don’t know exactly what i want to say and i cannot describe what i am feeling now but THANK YOU!

  • littlemeuws January 26th, 2012 7:44 AM

    thank you so much.

  • Liselore January 26th, 2012 9:58 AM

    I honestly thought I could not love Rookie more. I was wrong. This article… it blew me away. Heartfelt, compassionate and true. it’s been 12 years and I still cried when I read this. But I’ve made it to the last page and yes, I know it’s going to be ok. I can be happy. Not all the time. But sometimes :)
    Thank you so much for posting this!

  • Kay February 2nd, 2012 9:06 PM

    I finally successfully made an account, after trying several times just for this article.
    I just want to say, Thank you. The first time I read this, I bawled my eyes out. When I was a child, a was sexually abused and molested by my schizophrenic brother. I didn’t tell anyone, and managed to lie to myself. I repressed the memories, and had no idea it happened. Until a few months ago, when I was in PTSD therapy for something else. The memories started coming back. I was scared and so, so confused. I stopped doing the therapy for a month, not telling anyone. I hadn’t even admitted to myself that it was real. Then, a month later, I finally told someone. I was diagnosed with PTSD from that, and had flashbacks and nightmares all the time. I still do. And I had already willingly had sex with my boyfriend, which made everything even more emotional and complicated. It was like the day I remembered it was the day it happened. It’s like 2 years worth of abuse has happened in the past 3 months. This article made me realize that it’s ok to not be ok right now, even though it happened so long ago. I cannot thank you enough for this. You are my hero. Thank you. (P.S. sorry for such a long comment <3)

    • Cherries April 23rd, 2012 7:09 PM

      This made me teary eyed. You are so strong =) Just keep working on it, it feels so good to be rid of nightmares and be rid of getting lost in the horrifying memories. No, it feels good to feel like life is new and bright and I can do whatever I want and not even fear the abuser or men.

      Have a lovely year =)

  • Krys2011 February 4th, 2012 1:22 PM

    This was a great article. I was abused by several people when I was younger. Sometimes it is still hard to think about.

  • Cherries April 23rd, 2012 7:05 PM

    Reading this made me register so I could comment.

    Just, thank you for being articulate and kind.

    This is so well put.

    There’s the young, abused me who says “big sister, why didnt you protect me? Mummy? Daddy? Help more!”

    The young me didn’t like it but the older me realised what it was that was happening and why I didnt like it. It’s in this case that “Being Okay” because it happened a long time ago didnt happen. I held on, making up for lost time of mourning it in my childhood.

    The 23 year old me got in to Cognative Behavioural Therapy sessions on the NHS and I learned how to get past it for a long while =)

    One of my techniques is to think “that wasn’t me, that was a form of myself that couldnt defend herself, that didn’t know what was happening and didnt know what to do”

    Also I KNOW that if I ever see him again, if he dares show his face that i will hurt him and he knows that I know. He knows to fear me and to fear what my family now knows he did. He knows he’ll be arrested.

    Thank you again =)

    To everyone: please go out, volunteer somewhere creative or fun or lovely OR work. Collage, listen to music, write poems and songs.

    I met a friend a few years ago and during stress she revealed that she was assulted years before. I said, “it’s okay to say that, you’re saying what I wish I dared to say…” and I told her what had happened with me. She’s older than myself and she helped me realise what I was feeling and how to feel better. She went out to places with me when i didn’t dare leave the house and she made me go to her house and be creative. Thank You!

  • Flappergirl6 April 24th, 2012 7:31 AM

    A few years ago on a camping trip, I woke up to find that a boy had been touching me in my sleep. I don’t have any proof that he’d been touching me anywhere that I would have minded if I was awake (you know what I mean) but still, it creeped me out and I’ve never stopped worrying about it. The thing is, for ages I thought I was the one who’d done something wrong because I was a bitch to him afterwards. Maybe what happened to me wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and reading all the comments made me realize it could have been worse… But it especially made me realize I’m not alone.
    I’ve never told anyone about this before.