Have you ever worried that if you told someone what happened: your best friend, your cousin, your significant other - that it would change the way they saw you?
All of the sudden, you'd no longer be the person they see movies with, or a close family member, or someone who is romantically desirable, but the "person who was sexually abused," or the "person who was raped." It's not an attractive idea. Who would want to change from being thought of as fun, friendly, or sexy to the proverbial victim?
No one I've ever met. In fact, most men and women I've worked with have deeply resisted the idea of being characterized by their assault...and in so doing kept their pain nestled close to their heart, an invisible barrier keeping themselves closed off to people they love.
Recently I wrote about your assault being your story to tell. I still believe that. It's no one's right but your own to tell others what happened to you.
But here I'm not talking about your right to tell your story...I'm talking about when you want to tell your story, but are afraid it will change how others see you. Even more than that, when you are afraid that your story will come to define you.
That's a very different scenario from simply choosing when and with whom to share your story, because it isn't based in feeling obligated and choosing what to do about it, but instead is based in shame.
And that's the major problem. When we look at the word shame, we're seeing the meaning being, "a painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another."
It's normal to feel shame after assault. But "normal" doesn't always mean appropriate.
Appropriate, meaning suitable, fitting, or proper.
It is normal, but not suitable, fitting or proper for you to feel shame after an assault. Because it is not your fault that happened. It doesn't mean anything is wrong with you - at all. It doesn't say anything about your character, your capability, or indeed, who you are, at all!
You worry about others defining you by the assault. But what you don't often see is that you worry about that because on some level you are defining yourself by the assault. People pick up what you project. If you project self-acceptance, they will too. But if you're stuck in shame and guilt, they may well assume there is something you should feel shame and guilt over...though this could not be farther from the truth.
So how do you get past this? You broaden your perspective. Right now, I challenge you to take out a piece of paper and start writing things down about who you are.
Check out this example characteristics sheet from Second Blooming to help you get started. You'll notice one major thing about it right off the bat. Nowhere does it describe an event as a defining characteristic of who you are. Because an event isn't you. It just happened to you.
Big difference. :)
I'd love to hear from any of you about what characteristics describe you! Comment below or send me an email, at survivorisaverb at gmail.com.