The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network reports that, on average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. This means that 1 out of every 6 American woman has experienced an act of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. I never thought I’d be 1.
The #MeToo hash tag has become more than a high-trending social media fad. It’s been used to start a movement about the trauma and tragedy of sexual assault and harassment. This movement hits close to home because in August 2016, I began my own journey of recovery from sexual assault. I never thought my casual visit to the neighborhood ATM would end in a physical fight against rape; uncomfortable conversations with a police department’s sexual offender squad; and mile-high emotional scars? God has truly been with me every step of the way, and it’s important for me to share my story so that others can find hope in the middle of trauma.
I go into greater details about the events that led up to and followed my attack in my book — Hairlooms: The Untangled Truth About Loving Your Natural Hair and Beauty. I wanted to use this post, though, to pull-out some wisdom nuggets that will inspire you and friends who have walked through or are walking through sexual violation. In the days and hours that followed my attack, I didn’t think I could move forward. I am now able to say “I CAN” and did. Here’s how you can too:
HEAL YOUR WAY:
Broken places in life have a way of driving us to help. As women, though, we often think we can do everything for ourselves, by ourselves. I’ve had to learn that pain is the one dish in life that can be shared. Nonetheless, certain cultural ties made it difficult for me to get the help I truly needed. In some of my Christian circles, seeking a professional counselor was frowned-up and made me second-guess this resource. Additionally, we *all* know that Black women don’t see counselors! In our communities, seeing a counselor is the equivalent of serving Kraft Mac-and-Cheese at Thanksgiving dinner (insert laughter)! Nonetheless, I charted a healing course that was tailored to me. It looked something like this: prayer, meditating on Scriptures, talking/crying/laughing with family and friends. And guess what?!?! For the first time as a 40-year old, I actually went to several professional counselors! This, my friends, was my plan for healing and by God’s grace – after 11 years – it has worked! Find one that works for you, and work it!
EXPECT BETTER DAYS:
For a while, I struggled to be alone with men and the thought of going back to another bank ATM was more than I could bear. Living alone in a multi-level townhouse made me feel as if someone could be lurking behind every door and corner. Shadows seemed took on menacing personas and cold night sweats crept into my closed bedroom door. This scenario was true for several months after the assault but I still believed that things would get better. You already know my signature phrase: change doesn’t always come over night, but it will come over time! How true is this? Today, I can work in a male dominated field and office space without the same level of fear. Getting into an elevator with an unknown man doesn’t immediately cause my heart to race and I have gained the strength to return to the place of my attack and *close* an emotional door. In time, your dark days can turn brighter. Don’t rush it. Just expect it!
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PAIN:
Acknowledge Your Pain: The morning after being sexually assaulted, I took the bus downtown like nothing happened. Passengers never knew I just left the probing hands of male doctors who searched for flesh wounds from my scuffle the night before. My face was pressed against the window. Street signs blurred. Sounds muffled. I headed to work. I was numb.
For a while, the safest way for me to handle my pain was to avoid it. I barely wanted to tell others and it was so hard for me to get real with myself. I didn’t want to confront the shame and embarrassment. Wherever you find yourself in the journey, in time, admit what you feel. Too many women commit suicide or live a “shell-of-a-life” because they are afraid to touch their pain. Don’t be that woman. If you have to scream then scream. If you have to cry then cry. If you have to talk then talk. Whatever you do, love yourself enough to embrace what you feel. You can make it through but you’ve got to admit that you hurt.
LIMP THEN LEAP:
Healing really takes time, and one bunionectomy surgery sealed the deal! After months of wearing the infamously hideous blue boot I could only hobble. Weeks of hobbling were followed by a limp. After limping I eventually walked in flats. After months of recovery, I could rock my signature high heels, the but process wasn’t instantaneous. This principle applies to the recovery process from sexual violation of any type. The wounds are deep and sometimes the best we can do is take one step, fall back, and start again months later. Be comfortable with not *walking* the same way after experiencing a trauma. Be grateful for the steps you can take. Remember that baby steps are still steps.
For more information on how you can heal from the inside out, visit hairloomsthebook.com.