In a stunning and emotionally candid anonymous op-ed for The Guardian, a young woman has shared an unflinching account of the dramatic changes that occurred in her life after she was raped in London in late 2017 — and offered advice and solidarity with other victims of sexual assault who are struggling to move forward with their lives.
From rebuilding her relationship to her body, to managing secondary trauma in loved ones, and “learning to live with the bad days,” this generous piece of writing is a gift to survivors and those who care about them. “This is what I’ve learned, and I feel moved to share it,” the author writes.
In wake of the assault, the woman wrote, she found herself feeling “dirty from the inside out,” and “lost any concept of health or moderation.” She ate and drank to excess, and after a vomiting fit in March left her hospitalized was diagnosed with PTSD. A little over a year on from the rape, she wrote, destructive impulses, such as a desire to harm her body through overeating and drinking, are still hard to control. But therapy sessions that helped her examine her self-image and a regular exercise pattern helped to improve both her physical and mental health.
A harder challenge, she said, was learning to accept that all of the people closest to her were unable to truly understand her suffering. Her family and boyfriend, she wrote, grieved what had happened to her, but their lack of real comprehension only “increased the sense of isolation inherent to trauma.” Having to help manage her loved one’s confusion and grief, she added, soon became another emotional burden to bear.
Over time, she wrote, her PTSD drove her and her boyfriend apart. But her relationship with others, including her family, ultimately improved, and became more emotionally honest and openly loving than ever before. And in the #MeToo movement, she said, she found relatable accounts and stories that helped her to compartmentalize and come to terms with her own experiences.
In the end, the author says, she is still working at moving forward — but the steps are continuing to come easier with each passing day. And for victims and those close to them, she explained, telling such stories can be a necessary and vital part of achieving some measure of empathy and understanding — and, hopefully, achieving a lasting social change.
Read the full Op-Ed at The Guardian.