Today is a day for jokes and pranks.
While I love a good joke, I’m not a huge fan of pranks. And the first of April marks a very different day for me.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
As a survivor, April is the month I join with others to spread awareness and education. I firmly believe that not only do we need to teach our girls to be strong and show them the signs to recognize an unhealthy relationship, but we also need to raise our young men to treat every one with respect. If we can do this, we can raise young people that have healthy relationships and who respect each other.
Last year, I wrote about my intimate partner rape for Band Back Together. I also wrote about learning to be a survivor. These two stories are important pieces of me. Even more important is the story of how to survive.
Rape, in any form, leaves scars. Those scars will never go away, though with time they will fade. Like any trauma, rape can cause the survivor to struggle with PTSD. Triggers and flashbacks are a very real likelihood.
In the years right after I left my abuser, I had frequent flashbacks. It seemed everything was a trigger. A green semi truck on the road, men who walked or talked a certain way, a song on the radio, even certain foods or restaurants. I struggled each time something triggered me. It would take all my strength to stand my ground and not go running.
Over time, some of these triggers have faded. The flashbacks are less frequent. So infrequent, actually, that it takes me a few moments to recognize them for what they are.
Last week while napping with my fiance, something triggered me. Whether it was the feel of a rough sheet under my cheek or the way the air brushed my hair across my face, I don’t know. All of a sudden, it was a different voice whispering “I love you” in my ear, it was a different hand that rested on my hip.
As the memory faded, and I could once again see the here and now, I was left near tears. My fiance held me as I tried to make sense of what had just happened. And as he rubbed my back, all of a sudden, it didn’t matter. I realized those flashbacks only had power if I gave it to them.
I am a survivor.
I have overcome so much, surely I will not allow a bad memory to bring me to my knees. I have someone who loves me now, who will never hurt me. His love and understanding give me strength to stand up to those memories of my past and shove them away.
I have the power over how I allow my past to affect me. And I refuse to allow my abuser to have any place in my life, not even in my mind. He is nothing and he no longer has any power over me. This is part of my path of healing.
I am in charge of me. I’ve taken back the power.
**We at Band Back Together are focusing on Taking Back The Power this April. If you would like to share your story, we would love to help you on your path to healing.