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February 7, 2019

A Journey Back Into Your Own Body: Finding Resilience After a Sexual Assault

For the past seven years I’ve been on a search to find the perfect words to describe the gut-wrenching pain that comes from a sexual assault. The perfect words to describe how it feels when your body no longer feels like it belongs to you. What it feels like to be propelled from your own body and violently thrown into a dark, long, vulnerable, maddening, excruciating journey that you never asked to be on. How it feels to tell your story to the monsters that disguise themselves as guiding lights, offering their help and “resources” only to tell you that it is your fault you landed on this journey. When “You must feel so empowered for coming forward!” meets you with debilitating shame and grief. Or how, yes, the #metoo IS empowering and reminds us that there are always people in the dark with us, it also triggers the fuck out of survivors. There are no words.

For the past seven years this journey into healing and my relentless search for “why”, a question I’ve learned will never be answered, has been the greatest and most excruciating journey of my life. This body I live in, I craved its comfort and safety but it no longer felt worthy. I no longer felt worthy. For several years following my assault, I sought this desire for comfort and safety in a relationship. A relationship that wasn’t meant for me but I held onto anyways because battling through this pain felt impossible. I needed that relationship because it made me feel validated and worthy of love but I knew that his acceptance of my journey was not the right kind of love I needed and desired. I needed to accept my journey. It was a beautiful and loving relationship that felt like a band aid over my pain. This relationship meant that I could avoid healing. It meant that I could be comfortable with my past by pretending it didn’t exist and while sex in that relationship existed, I lost the ability to feel truly connected. I feared intimacy and I had so much shame in my own experience that I treated his love for me like something he got wrong on a math test. Ripping this bandaid off was hell, but necessary.

In order to get to the other side, we cannot avoid going through the pain. It requires so much vulnerability and acceptance and it’s necessary for survival. I needed to find my way back into my own body. I needed my body to feel like home again. I needed deep, true intimacy. I needed to feel safe and I needed to feel whole again. I needed to love myself and I needed to love the story of pain that molded me, even if it meant that the fingers that wrote that story for me, without my permission, were evil. That pain begins to lift when you respond to your feelings with love and acceptance. That pain begins to lift when you stumble into places that are stormy and daunting and you meet those places with kindness, reminding them that this is not their home.

I’m continually looking for better ways to love myself and the story that brought me here. This journey has led to a more intentional version of myself. This pain has brought me a better awareness of kindness and empathy and how transformative those things can be. It’s brought a more loving, more open version of myself. It has led to a deep respect for how I treat myself, how I treat others and how I allow others to treat me. It’s led to an desire to seek true fulfillment and intimacy in relationships, to nourish those relationships in a way that is always bringing more growth and love to the table and to let go when that isn’t met.

Accept and love yourself through all the stormy moments, all the peaks and valleys and the ugly path you travel on. Your body belongs only to you and only you have control over how your light shines in the world.

 

 

 

 

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Samantha Perry