Sex abuse is the one topic many try to avoid for fear of overstepping boundaries or having their own boundaries overstepped.
Unfortunately, every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Gaining the courage to speak about those who inflicted harm can be difficult. It can feel like you are reliving the moment. I learned late on, that I do not have to explain what happened in order to have others believe me. The act of abuse alone is horrific. Its existence, regardless of scale, is all the evidence needed. We do not have to become an investigator after already being robbed of our essence.
After years of counseling, research, and consistent self discovery, I thought it would be beneficial to share with you how I’ve managed life after sexual abuse.
Particularly, as a child I made a habit of covering myself in layers and layers of clothing. It was a subconscious way of protecting myself. As I got older I developed other methods of protection. Yet, what I could not hide from was the ever present shame. At times, the feeling of self disgust overcame me. A song or loud clash, a scent, or TV show would come and I would find myself back in that dark moment again. My body and mind would find myself unsafe. I learned to take deep breaths, wrap my arms tightly around my shaken body and remind myself that my body is a safe home. This portion of my healing was the most painful because for so long my body was a house for danger.
Regaining my confidence as an adult was a rollercoaster ride. I spent so much time considering my faith and cultural stances. In addition, I still had to decide what sex would look like in my dating world.
Next, I had to confront details of myself with trusted counselors. I knew I would constantly change and evolve and that my healing deserved patience. When I was ready, I began researching sex educators. I found books that helped me pick apart my sexual trauma from my sexual nature. This was vital in finding my identity as free and whole in life after sexual abuse. To some this looks like hyper sexual behaviors or promiscuity but I think these labels are more harmful than good. Sexuality is complex and more oft than not our labels lack not only creativity but imagination. As a result, terms such as “promiscuous” and “slut” wreak of centuries worth of oppression. This is aimed predominantly toward women who choose to express themselves through sensuality.
Through engagement and collision with others, I have seen how the interpretation of a belief can reinforce, reward, and praise a negative self body image. I profusely stand against this. Assuming ones sexuality only as a derivative of their history of abuse, is violent in nature.
Your public affirmations of self and sexuality may not sit well with the convictions of others. That’s okay, as long as you can happily sit with yourself.
Finally, exploring my sexual cravings absent of my memory of abuse has been challenging but beneficial. I’m not afraid of desires and I do not tie my encounters to the abuse I experienced as a child. Gaining autonomy of my body has been trial and error, there have been mistakes, and there have been times I’ve had regrets. But I have a goal in mind. My life after sexual abuse has been difficult but my self discovery and healing has been rewarding. Here are a few things I recommend from one survivor to the next:
- Work on your body politics, a code of ethics for your body. A love letter, if you will. What is required of others who desire to share themselves with you? What does your body need to thrive and feel loved? This could be done through yoga, meditation, bike rides, or long baths.
- Research and read, you now have full control over your sex education. No one’s looking, I promise.
- Stop blaming yourself for what happened and how it effected you. It’s not your load to carry. Similarly, relinquishing shame is an ever occurring process, but as a result you will find your own liberation.
I wish love and patience as you heal through your journey. I implore you to divorce practices that indoctrinate hatred of your most valuable home, your body.