Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I can't hate him.

Have you ever heard this?

"You must hate him [her] for what he [she] did to you."

"Don't you just want to see them go to jail?"

"I'd like to kill that person for hurting you." 

93% of juvenile sexual assault survivors know their attackers.  85-90% of adult survivors already have some kind of acquaintance with the person who assaulted them

Words cannot describe the betrayal you feel when someone you knew and possibly even trusted sexually assaults you. 

It is common for those that surround you (family members, loved ones, friends) to receive the news of your assault with threats of violence to the attacker, or to want to help you prosecute him or her. It's a fairly predictable response, and we can all understand it. When someone hurts a person we love, we want that person stopped. 

But when it comes to sexual assault by an acquaintance, the situation simply isn't that easy.

An "acquaintance" doesn't begin to describe who this person is to the survivor. It might be his or her parent. Next door neighbor. Another student at their university or high school. A teacher, sibling, or pastor. The father of their child. 

Such relationships don't come in only one dimension.

Outside of the sexual assault, you have had interactions with this person - without a doubt at least some of them positive. If this person is a member of your family, you have other family members' feelings to consider. The uncle who molested you is also your favorite cousin's father. Your ex-boyfriend gave you your child. Your neighbor babysat for you. 

Good memories get mixed in with the bad. You've always thought of a sexual assault being perpetrated by some stranger in the bushes. Not your friend. Not your family.

How can this person that did this horrible thing to you be, at the same time, someone you once liked? Maybe even still have some feelings for? Does that mean there's something wrong with you? 

Absolutely not. Fact is, nobody is all good or all bad. It's just not that simple. If people went around wearing devil horns and red body paint, it would be easier to spot them. But they don't. 

We know there are complexities to people's moral character: after all, "good people do bad things sometimes." However, it's a harder trick than you might think to apply that knowledge to your everyday life. 

We want people to fit an either/or, when it comes down to it. We want to say they're good, or they're bad, and when we can't fully define them as evil, we want to turn it around on us. This terrible thing happened, and if I can't hate them...maybe it was me. 

That's a logical leap you don't want to make, because the consequences are devastating. 

So don't assume that it has to be either/or, black or white. You may choose to see it instead in a number of different ways. 

  • Good people do bad things. 
  • Bad people do good things. 
  • Or perhaps, that none of us is all good or all bad, but we make choices everyday to serve our highest self - or to serve our highest selfishness

Are you tempted to put people into opposite categories? Why do you think it's hard for you to allow a person to be more than one thing at a time?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reclaiming Yourself

One of the most common things that I hear from survivors of sexual assault is they feel like they lost control of themselves. While this was true for a time physically, as the assault happened, it doesn't have to be true on an ongoing basis. 

Have you thought about taking a step to reclaim the emotional and physical control you lost during the assault? I know, that's more complicated than it sounds. In order to reclaim what was lost in the assault, a necessary step is to acknowledge to some degree that a sexual assault was committed. That you were victimized (though you do not have to be, by any means, a victim.) 

That's a harsh reality for anyone to face, and I wouldn't recommend doing it without the support of a licensed counselor trained in sexual assault recovery. 

Once you have connected with a counselor who gets you, you can work with him or her on ways to reclaim your body and mind.

Here are a few ideas to discuss with your sexual assault recovery therapist:

Journaling: When done purposefully, journaling can help you release and explore ideas you've held onto about the assault that are no longer serving you.

Body therapy: In wanting to reclaim ownership of your body, many men and women have explored ideas such as tattoos, piercings, improving physical fitness, makeovers, and more. When done with the attitude of celebrating your physical self and not self-harm, they can be quite restorative. 

Symbolic destruction of the past: (Safe) burning or burying of written declarations of past misconceptions such as self-blame, guilt, and shame. The destruction of these past thoughts represents that you are getting rid of the old to move forward with a healthier worldview. (You may even find it helpful to start with journaling therapy, and then move onto destruction of that journal later on.)

Investing in yourself: By this I mean investing time, energy or money in creating an even-better you! Have you always wanted to go back to college? Why not now? Have you thought about running a marathon? Maybe it's the time to hire a personal trainer to help you learn the physical discipline needed to complete a race of that magnitude. Whatever it is, I want you to know that it's okay to something positive for yourself. 

If you were to reclaim yourself today, what steps would be meaningful to you? How would you take back who you are and move forward? Comment below.

If you live in Dallas or Texas, you can contact me about sexual assault recovery therapy & counseling in Dallas or online. Find out more about my practice.