Sexual assault in all forms has become an epidemic and is continually happening across the world. Many people in society still fail to act when they hear or see something that could be classified as sexual assault, however. The problem is that we may hear about sexual assault, but we fail to believe it. Victims of assault who come forward are taking a risk, yet we’re so averse to taking those claims seriously that we often look away and choose not to act.

I was once sexually assaulted and being a victim of sexual assault changed how I viewed the issue not only on the day in question, but for many years afterward. A piece of me disappeared when it happened, and it changed how I view people and approach situations. I do not regret coming forward and talking about what happened, however, because it saved me and can help others with their experiences. Sadly, what isn’t talked about by many people is the aftermath of something as traumatic as sexual assault.

Aside from regaining a sense of confidence, I had to rebuild what was broken with therapy and a thankfully great support system. I could not have rebuilt myself up without the love and support friends and family gave me. Being supportive of someone who has gone through something traumatic like a sexual assault is one thing others can and should do to make a difference.  Without fail, my support group took that crucial first step when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault: they believed me.

Coming forward wasn’t a grab for attention, but an ask for help. I knew what happened wasn’t right. While at times I had this guilt of thinking I somehow deserved it or it was my fault, it wasn’t. Nobody should have to go through something that takes away their right to be a free, non-abused human being. The vulnerability and guilt alone eats you alive. I couldn’t even look at myself without being ashamed in my own skin, and recovery took time and patience.

But I’m here to tell you it’s possible.

It’s possible to get back up on your feet again and regain the confidence and glow of your own skin. It’s possible to make milestones in therapy, to be happy with yourself and eventually be able to talk about it. Talking about it puts the stigma to shame and helps the recovery process. I wasn’t alone and it’s everyone’s job to ensure others aren’t alone either.

Sadly, sexual assault continues to happen. One remedy many people might offer to those who’ve been victimized is to believe those who come forward and talk about it as openly and gently as possible.

So let’s all, collectively, continue to talk about it while doing something about it. Let’s start believing and acting and comforting those who are trying to build themselves up. Stop the gross shaming of victims and start spreading the love.

There is a light and life at the end of this tunnel.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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