If you’ve experienced sexual abuse, sexual assault, or some other form of gender violence, first of all, I’m so sorry you went through that. You are now in a group of people you never asked to be in, and I can imagine you have felt or are feeling a swirl of emotions about what you’ve experienced. Maybe it was recent, and maybe it was a long time ago; either way, it isn’t unusual or for you to still have feelings about it now, to still notice its impacts, and to still have moments when something spikes your nervous system and you find yourself feeling the fear as if it were fresh, as if it were now.
As much as you’re able, be gentle with yourself, even in those moments when you feel like you’re “going crazy.” Notice your responses as they arise; you don’t have to judge them, or judge yourself for having them. They just are, and more than likely they’re very normal responses to very overwhelming experiences. You’re not broken.
You didn’t ask to be in this group, and I don’t expect you to ever feel gratitude that you are — shitty experiences are shitty experiences; a silver-lined pile of crap is still a pile of crap. But as someone who’s been a survivor of gender violence for almost 40 years and who has experienced multiple instances and types of violation during that time, I can tell you this: Some of the most incredible, resilient, vibrant, powerful, insightful people I know — friends, colleagues, and mentors — are survivors. Perhaps they were all of those things all along. Perhaps, like me, they’ve had to dig deep during their recovery from their trauma and tap into hidden wells of inner resources they never knew they had access to. Perhaps everything they are learning and rebuilding and piecing back together after feeling broken is helping them become stronger than before, transformed, strengthened, and awash with blessing and renewed, passionate intention. We all still have our doubts, and yet still we grow. We sometimes even thrive.
You didn’t ask to be here, and yet you’re here with us now. We’ve got your back. We’ve stumbled through our own rocky, unsteady, painful paths, and we’ll be here nearby as you work your way through yours.
You are not alone.
Following are resources you may find useful in your recovery. Remember, it’s never too late or too long to reach out. Many people who call crisis hotlines do so years after their experience of violence, even if they also called years ago, or had been through therapy, or had thought it was resolved. Healing is not linear; you deserve support right where you are, on your own timeline.
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
NSVRC maintains a page to “find help.” If you are in the United States, you can go to your state coalition’s website. While your state coalition likely does not provide direct services, they do typically maintain a listing on their website or by calling of local rape crisis centers across the state. Your local rape crisis center provides services which may include 24/7 hotline (some even offer online supports), support groups, therapy or therapy referrals, hospital accompaniment, and court or law enforcement accompaniment.
National Sexual Assault Hotline
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Find a Domestic Violence Shelter
Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network
www.rainn.org (Online resources and live chat helpline; connects you to a regional agency that is approved by them, so not answered at some national call center. Maintains live online chat support.)
National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
National Network to End Domestic Violence
LGBTQ IPV Resources
(since many definitions of “domestic violence” or “DV” suggest a couple that is living together, “intimate partner violence” or “IPV” is expansive enough to refer to all patters of violence and control between intimate partners)
The NW Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse
The Network la Red