I was sexually assaulted many years ago, and at that time I attended a group therapy setting only a few times. It just wasn’t for me at that time. This many years later, when I decided it was time to completely work through the daily feelings I have from the sexual assault it was very difficult to make that first phone call. I avoided, I justified, I made myself just way too busy to make the call. Finally, I called to say I was interested in services. And just so I am clear up front I UNDERSTAND THAT THERE HAS TO BE A PROCESS OF SOME KIND TO SCREEN PEOPLE. I support that process, I really do. However, it was difficult to make that call and then I found out that it would be one of several calls I would have to endure BEFORE I could get into any group therapy. Thankfully, they had control over making those calls to me, they weren’t additional times I had to get myself to dial the number. After the phone calls, I had to make an actual appointment to go in and talk to someone face to face about my assault and my readiness for group therapy. Not one time, but MANY times. It was frustrating and I wanted to quit a lot. Every time I walked in, I was a victim. Once I started talking, I was always glad I made it to the appointments. But it felt like so much work each time to get there that I sometimes wondered if it would really be worth it.
Again, I understand why this screening process is in place and necessary, but I made those calls as a victim and I walked into that office for those individual sessions as a victim.
When a person is raped, they are a victim of a crime. This seems easy to understand. However, from the first second of an assault to every day of the rest of your life, you feel some level of shame as a victim. People say things that make you feel to blame, people don’t believe you, people feel you should be “over it,” and so it is increasingly difficult to talk about it to anyone. You feel like a victim over and over again.
Making that call, going into that office for the first time, it is scary and made me feel like a victim.
I made it through all of my individual sessions and was ready for group. When the day came for the first day of group, I was ridiculously early because I didn’t want to be late. But I couldn’t go into the building. I sat in my car. I got out and back into my car. I went to a gas station and got a drink and thought “that’s ok, I can try again another time.” There was no part of me (for over an hour) that wanted to go into that building and face my fears. After talking to some friends for encouragement, I went into the building.
It was one of the very hardest things I have ever done.
I am so very glad I did.
That day was uncomfortable, but as we introduced ourselves and talked about the process we would be going through for group, I found comfort. Comfort in the space and comfort in the people around me. People who fully understood that walk into the building. People who felt like victims that day walking in, and who I hope felt as good as I did walking out.
The validation of meeting that challenge made me so excited for what was ahead in therapy. There are bad days, sure, but having a place to go where people absolutely understand is an enormous weight off my shoulders.
I want that for anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault.
I was once a victim, but from now until forever I will choose instead to be a survivor.