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paths to healing from sexual assault


Glinda:  "You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas. "
Dorothy: "I have?"
Scarecrow:  "Then why didn't you tell her before?"
Glinda:  "Because she wouldn't have believed me.  She had to learn it for herself."

Validation is an important part of recovery.  Being reassured that what happened to you is rape/abuse/assault by others can help you heal.  But more important than that is how you feel about what happened to you.  I could tell you it was rape and it might help but unless you believe it yourself it won't make much difference.  It's hard and I still struggle with doubts but bit by bit you can own your story and believe in yourself.  Others might view what happened to me as not important, not real rape - a gray area.  So be it - it does not change the fact that I have to deal with the after effects of what happened.  If you have been hurt then what happened to you both counts and matters and  you have the right to own that no matter what the circumstances. Coming to terms with the fact that you were raped is undoubtedly painful and frightening. Saying the words "I was raped" can make it seem more real and bring up a lot of feelings. Perhaps you can type it but not yet say it, or think it but not yet utter it. That's okay. Respect your pace. You may find that ultimately, owning what happened to you is more empowering than the exhausting cycle of doubt and disbelief.

Several ways to take care of yourself in owning and naming your experience:
  • Look at myths about what "real" rape is. Remember, sexual assault is sexual assault even if the perpetrator was not a stranger or was your partner. Go to my Wizard page for a discussion of rape myths. Aphrodite Wounded also has a page of myths about intimate partner rape
  • When you feel ready to name, ask your survivor friends for support. You can post about owning your rape and it's difficulties any time at Pandora's Aquarium, where you will get support from others who know how difficult it can be.
  • When owning hurts, by very good to yourself. Because you may not have owned your experience, painful feelings may have been kept at bay. You went through the assault/s alone - you don't have to go through owning it alone. You deserve support, warm baths, kindness and care.
  • Give yourself a reward every time you take a step towards owning it.
  • Remember that you are not what the perpetrator did to you.
  • Don't worry about social nonsense about women "changing their minds" and crying rape. If you have not been able to call it rape for a long time, remember why not: myths, secondary wounding and perhaps trying to survive. These things don't mean you weren't assaulted.
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