Beauty After Bruises
“Who gave you bruises?” They ask. “Doesn’t matter,” I say matter-of-factly. “Who did it, why they did it, when they did it – none of that really matters.”
What truly matters is something horrific happened to me, something I didn’t want to happen. And that’s not okay.
Bruises are an inconsequential detail of a multitude of awful events. The sexual trauma I experienced in the past has negatively impacted my life for one day too many. I’ve gone more than ten years without talking about this. It weighs on me. I have allowed my responses to the trauma to control me.
My hope for this article is to give a platform for people to have conversations. Hard conversations. Why? Because it wasn’t until I started having these hard conversations that my healing truly began. Will I ever be healed? Probably not. But growing and coping and being an outlet to those who need it is worth the pain of talking about this.
Sexual trauma can be an umbrella term for a variety of experiences. I don’t know if you’ve had sexual trauma, but if you have, then what happened to you is horrible. No person should have to go through the physical, mental, and emotional trauma that you endured, and perhaps continue to endure. You are not alone. I often thought, “Nobody that has gone through this feels the way I feel.”
I. Was. Wrong.
Other people who have shared their stories allowed me to realize I was not alone. I hope my story can do that for someone else.
I can still smell his warm, foul breath as if it’s still in my face. I can remember the cold barrel of the gun on my temple while he whispered, “Tell someone. I dare you.” I remember my thoughts, the smells, the tastes, the pain. I remember it all. I remember wiggling my fingers against the mattress trying to get loose while my wrists were held down so tight.
I remember it all.
I wish I could say that was it. One night. But it wasn’t. It was the next night. And the next. And the next. Threat after threat after threat. His strength verses mine. His voice against my silence. My story isn’t your story, but together we can stop the sting of these selfless bastards’ actions, wake up, and remember that today we can breathe.
I’ve heard, “You have to forgive your rapist, even when they don’t want forgiveness.” I’d be lying if I told you that forgiveness felt attainable to me. Maybe one day I will figure out how to reach that goal, but today – I can’t. How could I forgive someone who has destroyed future relationships for me, changed my sex life forever, called me worthless and a coward?
At least not right now. I was once asked, “What if your rapist never changes and goes to his death bed with absolutely no guilt about all the damage he caused you?” I immediately thought, “That’s exactly what would happen.”
And then I realized something: my healing can’t depend on someone else deciding they want to heal. That’s a hard lesson. What if we lived our whole lives waiting for that “I’m sorry” from those who have hurt us? We’d die waiting on the acknowledgement of other people. We deserve more. I had to change the direction of my focus: it cannot be about them anymore.
It must be about me.
It must be about us.
The consequences of sexual abuse are toxic. You may live your life seeking exactly what your abuser did – control. You may be so desperate to feel in control again that you strive for control in every aspect of your life. Or you may do the opposite and give up control. Regardless of your story and the consequences you face, healing won’t happen until you hurt a little more by digging into the story. You’re strong, stronger than you realize. Stronger than the hell you survived. Now let’s figure out how to thrive. The cowards that did this to us can’t cripple us any longer.
This has been weighing heavily on my heart for some time now. Talking about this hurts. I wish I could say that I have this healing thing figured out. But let’s be real – I don’t. I’ve cried through the majority of writing this. I’ve second guessed submitting it. I’ve told myself, “Nobody cares. This won’t help anyone.” I’ve had nightmares about it.
But I’m following my heart.
If you can relate to this, or know someone who can, then I hope you feel a little less alone. Be gentle to people, you have no idea what they are going through. If you feel broken and lost and have no words because of your trauma – then stand up, cry out, and seek help.
Your trauma doesn’t have to hold you hostage.