Who Bears The Mental Health Burden For Discussing Sexual Violence?

sexual violence survivor with stop written on hand

She was asking for it.

Boys will be boys.

What was she expecting dressed like that?

I’d bet you already guessed the topic these often-repeated phrases refer to — sexual violence.

Story after story on sexual assault, incest, rape, and abuse are written by survivors, explaining their situation ad nauseam to men and not letting them off the hook with “boys will be boys.” That, no, an unconscious drunk woman was not “asking for it,” and she was certainly not capable of giving consent to a sexual encounter. That wearing a revealing outfit also does not mean a woman was “looking for attention.” That “20 minutes of action” indeed merits steep criminal charges because a survivor’s life is invariably and monumentally altered by sexual violence — often for a lifetime.

Continue reading Who Bears The Mental Health Burden For Discussing Sexual Violence?

7 Tips For Dating A Survivor of Sexual Abuse or Assault

couple in bed holding each other tenderly

As a sexual abuse survivor, dating terrifies me. Abuse taught me that a relationship meant losing all of my agency and performing sexual acts I didn’t want to — “no” wasn’t an option. Subsequent relationships have been mixed at best, from the partner who got mad when I froze during sex, to the dates when I could barely squeak out what my job title is because I was so petrified.

Survivors like me are not rare, especially considering the statistics. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, including both male and female victims. This means at some point in your dating life, odds are you will encounter a survivor.

“If we’re going to be dating, and if we’re going to be dating a lot, we’re going to run into someone who probably is a sexual assault survivor,” says Cynthia Stocker, a licensed clinical social worker with more than 30 years of experience. “It’s really pretty common.”

Dating as a survivor often brings out traumatic memories, sensations, and emotions because of past experiences. When a current partner is empathetic, educated, and understanding, however, that can make dating easier to manage for both parties.

With that in mind, here are seven tips for dating a survivor. Continue reading 7 Tips For Dating A Survivor of Sexual Abuse or Assault

The Stories PTSD Tells Me

woman on floor next to shower white towel

This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others.

Images flash back through my mind.

I am locked in a dark office in the corner of another locked room during a free class period of the high school day. I’m balanced precariously on the edge of a desk with my legs wrapped around his body, the bulge in his pants gyrating in the crook between my legs. My mind wanders and eventually lands on my aching muscles, my trembling arms and legs. They’re not going to hold much longer.

He is standing fully clothed, his usual beat-up brown loafers planted on the floor. I smell his Cheer-washed dress shirt and Dial soap-scrubbed skin. His Docker’s are hemmed a couple inches too short. He is 43. I am 17. Those loafers rise and fall off the floor with every thrust of his crotch into me, the friction of fabric on fabric a barely noticeable sensation. All my attention focuses on my awkward position on this desk — my muscles ache and burn in protest.

He grinds away, oblivious in ecstasy, his face turned upwards, making those moaning sounds. Finally, my body overrides my mental willpower to stay upright and my muscles collapse. I start to fall off the desk, headed toward the floor, before he catches me and props me back on the desk.

Other memories follow. Continue reading The Stories PTSD Tells Me

5 Celebrity Women Who Spoke Out About Domestic Violence

kerry washington red carpet

About 20 people are victims of domestic violence every minute in the United States. Domestic violence is an enormous issue, and we need powerful voices to address it.

We wanted to salute those in the spotlight who have spoken about their personal experiences with domestic and intimate partner violence. Because survivors often suffer in silence, we hope these public voices offer inspiration and courage to those who might need support.

Tamron Hall

Tamron Hall, a host for NBC’s “Today” show, has been an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse for many years. Hall’s sister died as a result of her abusive relationship. This was the catalyst for Hall’s advocacy. Her sister’s death is still unsolved.

Hall has been open about her struggles with guilt about her sister Renate’s death. Her feelings echo those of family members across the world who have struggled with having a loved one in an abusive relationship. She started the Tamron Renate Hall Fund with her sons to help survivors of domestic abuse. Continue reading 5 Celebrity Women Who Spoke Out About Domestic Violence

Coping With Sexual Assault or Picking Up the Pieces

Coping With Sexual Assault or Picking Up the Pieces

Sexual assault can shatter a person’s world into a million pieces – therapy can help put them back together.

There are many different types of sexual assault, which may or may not include physical contact. One of the most important but difficult things victims have to comprehend is that they cannot hold themselves accountable for the vile actions of other people. Just ask any therapist. Continue reading Coping With Sexual Assault or Picking Up the Pieces