Someone who has experienced sexual violence might cope in many different ways. Some of these ways might be difficult to understand, like self-harming, stopping eating, or using alcohol or drugs. Experiencing sexual violence can cause overwhelming emotions like sadness, anger, or emotional numbness. Coping strategies are ways of dealing with these difficult emotions – even if the way someone else is coping doesn’t make sense to you, it might be the only thing that is getting them through those painful feelings.
One survivor of sexual violence wrote about her experiences here:
“It’s weird isn’t it, that it’s almost as though you are going through grief. I mean, is losing yourself the same as losing someone close but external to you? It sure felt like it. Think about it though, who is the closest person to you, who knows your thoughts, your feelings, your needs, wants and desires? How can it be that there’s a person staring back from the reflection in the mirror that looks exactly like you, when in fact you’re not there anymore?
Your body. A broken temple no longer worthy nor to be desired. These sacred pieces of you always taught to be private, yours and only yours, to be kept for someone you love, no longer that. Snatched by him. Now, just broken, ravaged beyond repair.
Your personality. That bubbly person that would engage in conversations about the world with complete strangers and compliment peoples perfume. The humour that would make your friends cry with laughter and love you. That clumsy side to you that people wouldn’t change even if their rug was ruined from tea stains. No longer there as he took it. He took it with your body.
Your feelings. Either nothing or 10 feelings at a time. There’s no in between nor do I have the ability process or understand what these feelings are. Is it sadness, is it anger, or is it just guilt? Maybe it’s a mixture. Who knows? I don’t.
Your relationships. What relationships? You mean, loved ones, friends, partners that have now been replaced with your bed, your anxiety and the emptiness in your tummy? He replaced this because he believed you were not worthy of love, but is his opinion the only one in the world? Are you going to let him decide who you love?
How can you continue navigating through this body-orientated, socially challenging, materialistic world when you have lost yourself and your way? “
Illustration credit: a survivor who received support from the Rosey Project