My experiences have caused me to lose faith in the idea that people will come to understand and acknowledge my sexuality without an explicit statement that I am asexual. Even this statement rarely generates understanding or compassion from friends; usually I am met with confusion, discomfort, or even silent denial in the form of attempting to steer the conversation elsewhere.
College can be hard even when nothing traumatic happens to you – especially in a physical therapy doctorate program – but navigating hallways where you could pass your rapist at any moment is hard on another level. And on a small campus, where he’s popular and you’re not? It can feel like all you can do is brace yourself. Forget support systems or telling anyone his name.
Probably the worst part of it was how my grandparents urged me to go back to who I was 'before'. For me, there was no before. I didn't realize it then, but for many of the victims of repeated childhood sexual abuse, there is no 'before'. You know the one. Before the abuse. Before the pain. Before the brokenness. Now, when I think about who I was 'before', I realize that it wasn't as clear-cut as my grandparents and the psychologist made it out to be. Now, I realize that the 'before' they referred to was their own—namely, before they knew about the abuse. Today, I have a different 'before'. Before I decided to live for me. Before I forgave myself. Before I realized that my life is valid, no matter what.
Not every trauma survivour has had a life before the trauma/s. It can have happened/started in early childhood and/or there may be no memories of a life before or independent of trauma. Even for people where there was a “before”, recovery is not about going back to that state, especially not if the “before” was a long time ago, in childhood or in a completely different stage of life. We know it’s hard. Having to figure out everything new, what is a healthy coping mechanism and what’s not doing me good, how does a healthy relationship work/feel, what are my likes, interests, needs, skills, beliefs. What is my personality, who am I and what is really me and what is “just” due to trauma. This is hard to figure out and painful to even have to adress in the first place. But it’s possible.