Six Things Assault Survivors Can Do to Survive the 2016 Election

Photo by DmitriMaruta/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by DmitriMaruta/iStock / Getty Images

“I am having a hard time.” 

“I am having a hard time.”

“I am having a hard time.”

Those are the words I whispered in prayer the other night. I reached out to God, the Universe, Jesus, the lamppost, and anyone who could hear me and said:

“Help me. Please, help me.”

Now mind you. I am in a good place. The best I have ever been in my adult life. I am happy, healthy, and feeling pretty darned amazing—but let’s be honest, this election. Phew. Man. Let's just say it is taking its toll on this survivor. 

I know I am not alone. I am not the only rape survivor. I am not the only assault survivor. I am not the only woman who has even been sexually harassed and demeaned by a man. I am not the only woman who has been catcalled just about every time I leave the house and walk down the street.  (In fact if you’re a woman, and you live on this planet, at least one or all of the above has unfortunately happened to you at least once.)  I know that I am also not the only person who hasn’t been believed or supported during these times—not just by authorities but my own friends and colleagues.

I know what it’s like to need to stay quiet. Stay small. Mostly out of fear. Mostly out of self-protection. I know what it's like to feel like a scared, lost little girl, even though I am a fully grown woman, because I falsely believed that by sharing this awful, terrible truth about me (or all—I was raped, I was assaulted, I was harassed, I was catcalled), I think only more pain will come. More judgment. More blame. More “Shoulda and coulda,” more “if I were you, I’d….” or “That would never happen to me.”  

I know what it’s like to stare into a mirror while standing over a sink, and slice a knife into my skin—just to feel the pain on the outside, so the pain on the inside could dissipate for a minute.

I know what it’s like to pour the last drop of wine in a glass and cry—shattered that there is nothing left to dull the pain.

I know what it’s like to grieve the loss of the old self—the self that trusted everyone, that smiled at passersby, and felt brave when walking into a room of strangers.

I know what it’s like to hear the word “rape” on the news and shudder and remember my own—that night long ago that might as well be today—because the words, the tears, the screams, and the fear seem as real now as they did then.

I know what it’s like to hear the word “assault” to remember how the man, old enough to be my father, reached out and squeezed my breasts, put mouth on mine, and laughed at me as I stood horrified.

I know what it’s like to hear the word “harass” and to hear my male coworker ask me if the color of my bra and panties matched my dress, hear him tell me how attracted he is to me, and listen as he screams and berates me because I don’t compliment him enough, I don’t recognize his “gifts,” or his “looks.” 

I know.

I know.

I know it is not easy, my friends.

I know this election is not easy. No matter what side of the aisle you are on, if you’re a victim of harassment, assault, rape, or abuse, I know what it’s like for you. It is not easy and it takes courage to wake up each day and drive by all the signs, to turn on the news, and hear the stories.

Trigger.

That’s what psychologists are warning us all about. These news stories can “trigger” responses—PTSD, depression, anxiety, but mostly unwanted memories of our own rape, abuse, or harassment.

These conversations—filled with vitriol, hate, accusations, and anger—can cause panic, fear, and a sense of isolation.

You may not feel like you can’t talk to your family about what you’re going through, because you’ll fear that because of their political leanings they would not understand.

You may feel like you are crazy. That all of this pain and suffering in your body (yes, it’s physical) and your head, is abnormal. It’s not. I assure you. You’re not alone.

All I can say is, I am sorry and I understand. Also, I can offer some advice—somethings I have done that have worked for me:

1)    Turn off the news. Attacks from both sides will keep coming. You don’t have to bury your head in the sand, but you don’t have to inundate yourself with the daily crap-fest that is election coverage 2016. Let that shit go. (Admittedly, this is EXTREMELY hard to do.)

2)    Call a friend who gets it. You know, the one whose shared his/her story of assault/rape/harassment/abuse with you before. (And that means, don’t call someone who you know isn’t going to empathize. You’ll know it by their Facebook feed. Usually.)

3)    Join a support group. There are support groups and organizations dedicated to supporting survivors of violence, rape, and/or harassment in every city. Find one near you and join. Here’s one of the best, most comprehensive lists from the RAINN Orgranization: https://www.rainn.org/national-resources-sexual-assault-survivors-and-their-loved-ones

4)    Call your therapist. Set up an appointment. If you don’t have one, call your primary doctor and ask for a referral. 

5)    Share your story. So you don’t feel ashamed anymore and so that others don’t feel so alone.

6)    Be kind. Find ways every day to be grateful. Find ways to reach out and help, serve, love, and heal others. You’ll find that in doing so you’ll love, serve, and heal yourself.

And most importantly: Keep fighting, keep shining, keep seeking and focusing on the good. Go toward the light. And if all else fails, reach out to me. I understand. I believe you. I love you. You’re not alone in this.

--Mary