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Healing After Sexual Assualt

Image of Souyenne Dathorne
PROSAF — Surviving Sexual Abuse In The Caribbean By Souyenne Hackshaw

HI all. So, I wanted to start this week with a check in. How are you handling all the news surrounding the virus? How are you handling either being quarantined and or the current lock down? I know the last few weeks have been difficult for many; there has been a lot of fear and uncertainty leading up to the eventual partial shutdown of the country this past week. Many of us are unsure of how our health may be affected and added to that; we are also worried about our financial status, our jobs, and our families’ survival. I know that we are all in a space of insecurity, worried about the future and where we stand in it. Many of us may be potentially fearful of how we proceed in a world that is rapidly changing. I know it is difficult to relax. I know it is difficult to not worry, so what I will say is continue to find calm moments throughout the stressful periods. As we continue on in this week’s article, should you feel triggered, should your anxiety level increase, should you find that you heart is racing or that you are beginning to get clammy, please stop. Put down the article and take a moment to calm down. Walk away from the article and listen to your body and what it needs right now. Remember through all this, one of the things you should work on is learning to hear what your body is telling you it needs right now. Your body has gotten used to not being listened to, to being ignored. No one is blaming you for this, you did what you thought was best to help you cope, to help you pretend that nothing was wrong, to help you pretend that you were ok and to help you keep moving. As you embark on your healing journey, the aim is to fix the methods that you used that weren’t the healthiest. The articles will always be here. They are in the newspaper weekly and starting from this week, they will be both on our Facebook page and our website (look below for the links on how to get there). I want you to put you first and what you need. Work on cataloguing what you need, prioritize what is most important, and work from there.

In this week’s article, I would like to discuss the ambiguity that often surrounds the act of sexual violence. As a survivor, you may be querying whether what happened was truly sexual assault, who should/can you tell, and you may also be worrying whether you did something to cause the assault. So, let’s start first by clarifying what sexual assault truly is. Sexual assault occurs when an individual is sexually violated (without their consent). Consent is verbal and is freely given. So intoxicated, asleep, drugged, fearing for one’s life, being unable to freely say “yes” can’t be instances when the survivor is blamed for the attack. Should an individual be manipulated or coerced into an act they don’t want to commit, consent is also not feely given in those moments. In those moments I am doing this against my will because I am trying to prevent something worse from happening. Sexual assault can be forced or coerced, and if it happens when you are younger you may not understand what is happening or may have been told it is normal. Sexual assault perpetrators can be either male or female. Many of us neglect to acknowledge that women can also be abusers. Your abuser can be someone of the same gender, someone of the same age, someone in your family or a stranger. It can be a teacher, a coach, a priest or family friend. An individual who sexually assaults another can come from anywhere and be anyone –there are truly no exceptions. Know that if something was done to you that made you feel uncomfortable, that if something happened that has you questioning if it was sexual assault, trust your instincts. You can always clarify and seek more information, but first and foremost, trust your gut. Own the feelings that are coming from you that are screaming this was not right.

So many are told that it was an innocent act, that they are misinterpreting what happened, that it was nothing, that they should forget it, that they should have gotten over it by now, that he/she is family and as such they should pretend it never happened for the sake of the family. I assure you if it felt wrong to you, then it was probably wrong. You are the judge of what feels wrong when it comes to your own body and how you are treated. Nobody but you get to dictate what feels right or what feels wrong but you, which is why consent and communication are so important. So many don’t realize what was done to them because they were not told what was wrong or right; they lacked the initial knowledge to feel definitive in saying that they were sexually violated. Some of you were blamed or made to feel that you had a part to play in the act of violence against you. Know being sexually assaulted is never your fault. Know that healing, acknowledging and understanding what happened takes time. Know that unfortunately we live in a world that blames survivors more than perpetrators. But know that there is a community of survivors out there that understands what you have been through and what you may need going forward.

I also wanted to ensure that while being stuck home that you try to find the calm quiet moments that allow you to breathe. There is a lot happening, it’s scary and happening rapidly. Find ways to stay sane – draw, read, garden, cook, listen to music, spend time getting to know your kids, learn a new language, try to find a new career, start exercising, start blogging, start writing, and start doing something for you that you may have been putting off due to lack of time. I know it may sound like I am making light of the situation; I assure you I am not. I just know that we must find a way forward and self-care and self-reflection are the ways forward. Don’t give up, don’t give in. As always, PROSAF is here to listen and help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

As this week’s article comes to an end, I would like to remind you of a couple of things. 1) There is no shame in listening to what your body needs. If it says stop, stop. Trauma has changed you; you are working towards healing which takes time and patience. Baby steps. Celebrate the small victories, it will take time. 2) You are a survivor of sexual violence. A crime was committed against you. You did nothing wrong, you didn’t cause it, you are not to blame. You could not have changed it or prevented it. Ignorance comes in all shapes and sizes, so when someone walks up to you and blames you or tries to silence you for the crime committed against you, bid them farewell and walk away. They will not be of help to you or your journey. You need support and empathy, anyone in your life not offering that should be escorted out. 3) To my fellow survivors, I want you to remember that you have survived a traumatic experience, but that experience doesn’t define you. I want you to remember that you are strong, brave, intelligent, resilient and worthy of being loved. You are not alone. Know we are here to listen and help. WE are all walking a similar path, not the same, but we all understand on some level your pain. You are not alone; I know it often feels that way. But know you are not. We are here to listen. Call if you need to vent, if you need company to just to be on the phone. We are here to help. Text, email, call… you are not alone. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, you were violated. You don’t have to keep secrets you don’t want to keep to protect anyone. You don’t have to let anyone into your life who doesn’t understand or support you. Should you want to discuss or ask a specific question don’t hesitate to send it in. Please don’t give up. You deserve to be happy, and you deserve to decide who you let into your life and to what extent. Our contact info is below.

Souyenne Dathorne (724-9991), Velika Lawrence – Xylaw (723-6466), Miguelle James
Email: ssaitco@hotmail.com – thepowerofone_v@hotmail.com
Facebook: SURVIVING SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CARIBBEAN
Webpage: http://www.prosaf.org

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