My particular experience was unique: no two assaults are the same. I am not alone in having been assaulted. I know there are men and women all around me every day who have been affected personally and secondarily by sexual assault.
Two weeks after my rape, when I picked up my last paycheck, a waitress whom I had mutually befriended told me she had been raped five years previously. Five years! At the time, I was counting off every day one by one- one more day's distance, one more day survived. I was so impressed at her five year mark that it became my goal. If she could survive five years and seem so normal, I could too. Now I've doubled that and it no longer marks my calender.
It's been a long journey.
I went to counseling the summer after my December rape. I cried through my first visit and often during subsequent visits. Some days I just didn't want to deal with it, didn't want to live it or go through the anger and fear. Sometimes I just cried and cried for the person inside he had killed, the me I would never be again. Sometimes I burst into tears in the middle of a store. What right did he have! I could scream and scream and beat him in my mind, bite chunks out of him and how I wanted to- I wrote often in a journal, and kept a pad of paper with me at all times never knowing when the need to write it out might strike. Still I had scraps of paper stuffed in books, notes made of brown shopping bags, receipts taped together end to end.
I dreamt of him sometimes and woke up panicked. Other days I would spend all morning puzzling over my inexplicable anxiety to remember by noon him haunting my dreams the night before.
It was embarrassing and frightening telling my parents. They still don't know the details. My dad was furious and wanted to go to Pennsylvania with a gun. My mom is certain I brought it on myself by living there and she didn't feel it was appropriate to tell the rest of our family.
These days I think of telling them but wonder if my own relief is worth what pain or discomfort I might cause.
I don't know what it is like for anyone else. For me it's been hard. It isn't over but every time I face it down I heal a little. For me hearing the stories of others, reading the stories of others, was reassuring. Just to know there were others who had been there and healed, others who would understand.