They don't tell you that the act of rape itself isn't the worst part of what you will have to face. They don't tell you that the sad, sympathetic looks you get from others will trigger the flashbacks. They don't tell you how violating rape kits are. They don't tell you that the police are going to look you in the eye and call you a liar even with all the physical evidence they have sitting in front of them. They don't tell you that friends will leave because they just don't know how to handle it. Join the club. They don't tell you that your nights will no longer be filled with peaceful slumber, but either no sleep at all or nightmares that wake you shaking. They don't tell you that you will become addicted in a way to the pain because it's easier to be in that dark place than pull yourself out.
I have been raped four times. When I tell people that, their first question is how does that happen to someone so many times? That is a great question. I ask myself that often. The first time it happened, I was 16 years old and it was an immediate family member. He'd allowed me to drink that night. An out of control teen like me wasn't about to pass up on partying. He took advantage of my lack of movement. He took advantage of me not being able to fight him off. Out of the four times, alcohol was involved in three of the assaults—only one of those times was I completely incapable of fighting. The second time was in the backseat of a truck, by someone I thought was my friend. The third was by a man in the women's restroom at a bar. The last and most recent was at a concert.
I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Going through these traumatic experiences brought me to my knees. They swallowed me into their darkness. If I could go back, I wouldn't change what has happened to me. My experiences have built me into who I am today. They have made me an advocate for sexual assault survivors and finding our voice. I write a blog about sexual assault and healing from it. I have women from all over the world that read it—some even reach out to me. Some women ask for my help on finding their voice, some women just want a safe place to tell their story. I am an advocate in my community that helps other sexual assault and domestic violence survivors on an online group, we also hold free monthly gatherings to bring everyone together. If I hadn't been through what I have, I wouldn't have found my passion for helping others heal. I wouldn't have found my voice or been heard. I would have never become the person I was meant to be if I hadn't been through the things I have. I still have some bad days, but the good days outweigh them. That's when you know you are starting to heal.
We are warriors; hear us roar.
See Amber's blog about sexual assault survivorship here