Unfortunately, abuse happens. Physical, emotional, mental, sexual. It happens.

Regardless of the cause, there is always an effect. Sometimes it’s immediate, but every so often abuse can be suppressed until a memory is somehow triggered. Each person processes their experience differently. If a woman feels that she can share, she usually does so with a friend or trusted adviser. Of course, there are instances where a woman might not feel comfortable talking to anyone about her situation, much less report the incident to authorities. Often women who report their abuse, whether done immediately or sometime after the assault has taken place, indicate that they by no means want to press charges for fear of ruining the assailant’s life.

It is always disheartening when a student of mine says that they don’t want to hurt the person who abused them. What I want to reverberate off the roof tops when I hear that phrase is, “They have taken something from you.” Whether that be virginity, innocence, dignity, faith or simply trust, they have stolen a piece of you. A piece that has made you who you are. A piece that didn’t deserve to be broken.

As a university official, I’ve seen and heard many cases where young women will carry the burden of assault with them for a long time. It’s something that will, in many ways, eat away at them until they find a way to become whole again.

As survivors, hearing, “You’re not alone” can sometimes feel like bologna. You think, “How can someone possibly know how this feels?” If I can portray one message to someone who has been abused, it’s that you truly are not alone. It may seem easier to hide behind your story, to let it fester or just push it aside. Though, as I mentioned, that pain will most likely surface in one way or another. I’ve found that creating a bond with others by sharing realities can not only become a form of closure for yourself, but it can truly help nurture the strength of another. Though a heartbreaking reality, there are others who have stood and will continue to stand where you do. Abuse happens.

… creating a bond with others by sharing realities can not only become a form of closure for yourself, but it can truly help nurture the strength of another.

Perhaps it takes days, months or even years to categorize your experience as assault or abuse. Regardless of your identification as a survivor, know that you are just that … a survivor. You charged through one of the most difficult experiences fathomable. Please use your voice. Take a stand and share your story, however personal you wish to portray it. Recall your experiences, empathize with others and create power through helping someone else through theirs. No one should have to face the path of healing alone.

Listen. Share. Fight. Roar.

Image via EJK

1 comment

  1. Perhaps one of my least favorite “grief-coping” phrases is, “This happened to you for a reason.” The words above demonstrate the inner strength necessary to embrace a situation and use it for good; that is essential and crucially different from assuming abuse happened for a reason. That reason often turn into self-incrimination rather than righteous indignation. Recognize the event(s), understand their impact, and refuse to allow that abuse to define you. Instead, willingly offer your story and road to recovery with others who may feel they, too, are alone.


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