You are not alone



April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and according to NOW, a National Organization for Women dedicated to its multi-issue and multi-strategy approach to women’s rights, an average of 1.5 million women and 834,700 men will report acts of sexual assault. This number does not include the millions of others that might not have had reported or have been open to speaking out about it.

I was one of those people.

According to NOW, every 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 33 boys under the age of 17 has experienced some type of sexual assault. 93% of victims know the person, 59% are acquaintances, 34% are family members, and 7% are strangers. I became part of that 1 in 6 ratio at 6-years-old, by somebody that my family and I trusted. I fell victim to this person for two and a half years. While there are the cases that it may happen only once, it is not uncommon for an assault to happen more than once.

It’s hard for those who have dealt with the trauma to talk about what happened to them. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, statistically 91% of reports made are by girls and women, where only 9% are men and boys, 12% of child cases are reported, and 63% of sexual assault cases aren’t reported at all.

It took almost a decade before I was even somewhat ready to speak about it.

Sexual assault will always have a mental effect on a person, especially children. In a way, it’s easier to manipulate a kid to keep them quiet because they are seen as naive; the abuser has power over them because a kid doesn’t know better. I was 7-years-old when I was told that if I said anything I would make my family sick. It only took one time telling me and I never had the thought of bringing it to my family’s attention in order to keep the peace.

According to National Institute for Health and Care Research, sexual assault impacts teenagers’ mental health and education. The abuse can cause mental health problems, the most common being, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and or depression. I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety rooted from the trauma, but I didn’t fully understand what had happened to me until middle school, when I had some of my lowest times. Even though I knew what happened to me was a bad thing, I wasn’t aware of my mental health and didn’t handle it properly so I acted out and had behavioral issues that nobody understood the cause of.

It wasn’t until I was 15-years-old that I discovered the different resources and the support around victims of sexual assault. I just found out that somebody else close to me told their parents about their own sexual abuse and how much they felt supported by family. Once I built the courage to speak to my parents about the abuse I dealt with, there was a feeling of relief and peace; it was nice to know that I wasn’t alone at this time and I did have a support system.

For the first time in a long time, I felt like I could heal and fix relationships that I thought I ruined because of the way I was acting. I assumed that I could do it on my own. However, I couldn’t heal on my own after feeling like I didn’t have anybody to support me. People might need somebody to talk to and it doesn’t have to be family.

I went to therapy and it helped me better understand my mental health. The trust issues and everything I’ve been through made it overwhelming, especially when things were put into perspective. I wanted to stop going to therapy right away. I don’t want somebody that may have gone through the same thing to feel discouraged by all the emotions. People will heal in their own way and it’s completely normal.

It’s not to say that telling those you love will be easy or that April is the only time that you can say something, because it isn’t. April is a reminder that you aren’t alone, that there are people who will understand you. If you think that you are ready to talk to somebody, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) can be reached 24/7 at their hotline 800-656-HOPE and can provide different resources to help you through it.