I remember my first time going back to my hometown after my perpetrator was sentenced. I didn’t want to be seen. I basically hid in my mom’s house and refused to even go to the grocery store for her in fear that I may see people I know. I didn’t even care if I saw people who I knew were on my side. Just seeing people in general really scared me. In my mind, I was alone. No one understood me, no one accepted me, no one felt what I felt. I was in my own void.
After graduation and 4 months before he was sentenced, I conveniently got a job out of state and moved away. New city, new world, new people that had no idea what was happening in my little town. I don’t know how my growth would have been different, had I stayed where I was, but I know it wouldn’t have been the same. Because I was able to create space, I think that really helped me cope and deal with what was happening. It also let me redefine myself and leave out all of the junk I didn’t want people to know.
I see myself as very fortunate because of this. I know I would not be, mentally, where I am today had I not been able to move away and create that space. Space to validate my experience. Space to cry about my experience. Space to meet people outside of my experience. Space to not feel like I was constantly being watched and talked about.
Most people do not get this opportunity after a sexual assault. They go back to the job they were harassed at. They go back to the same school their perpetrator goes to. They live in the same house where the assault happened. And if I feel like all eyes are on me the few times I visit my hometown, imagine how other survivors might feel. Whether they come forward or not, there is a weight that they carry that they feel others might see. There can be paranoia and anxiety that constantly bombards their daily lives and they cannot escape it because the triggers they have, they have to live with.
Part of the reason I have helped to create this group is because I don’t want people to feel stuck or alone after abuse. It is already a lonely space in that post-abuse void, and I want people to know that there are others in that void as well. Reading other people’s stories and experiences, meeting others who “know” even if you don’t say a word, and surrounding yourself with people who will accept you and your path no matter how it looks compared to theirs is one of the main goals at JDA.
The void that you feel you are in has other people in it, and they feel the same way you do. Know that you are not alone and there is a community of survivors that may be different than you but they can also understand you, hear you, accept you, and honor the path you wish to take after abuse.