5. Difficulty in maintaining friendships and isolation
This is a definite – you will feel alone. You’ll feel like you’re the only person going through this, and you can’t talk to anyone. You’ll isolate your family and friends – especially any who look like the perpetrator – and isolate yourself in a protective little bubble. It may feel good to be alone sometimes, and you can do that, by all means. Headphones become your friend, even if they’re not plugged in.
It’s the worst thing you can do in the long run.
Yes, some people may not understand and some might even make light of your situation and make rape jokes. Those people can be dealt with in time – when you have the strength and vocabulary for it. But mostly, your tribe is good, and want to be there for you; boundaries and all. You may think that people don’t want friends with baggage. But think about how you take on your family and friends’ baggage and ease their pain whenever you can. Don’t you think they’d want to do the same for you?
If nothing else, trauma is a good way of filtering out toxic people from your life.
6. Problems with intimate relationships
Relationships are difficult as is, and even more difficult when you have sexual assault seen as part of your proverbial baggage. The right person will love you more for it, while the wrong ones will show themselves through dealing with your experience – the wrong person will almost always make it about them. That aside, you’ll find some more supportive than others, and some not supportive at all, and you’ll find someone who will want to help you heal and will pull through on that. You just have to learn to trust.
Before reading the rest of this, know that rape is not a form of sex. Sex feels right and good. Assault is traumatising. And know that it is possible for sex to exist after rape. However, it’s not easy. The first time you engage in sexual activity, you might be completely fine with it. In which case, nice! In most cases, not so much. You’ll probably burst into tears and run out the house, have a full-on panic attack, or go completely numb and let it happen. Either way, it can be traumatising. You may want to recoil at every touch that reminds you of that day. But there will be a time when you feel sexy enough to take off your clothes without switching the lights off, when you’ll want to wear lingerie; when the sex is so good, when you’ll forget for some time it was ever not good.
Most men interviewed by The Daily Vox said they would be cautious in this kind of situation, but some won’t go so far as to tiptoe around the issue, preferring to know and understand someone’s sexual history before getting into bed with them. It is an issue that needs to be articulated. But when your partner is understanding, that’s all that matters.
And sometimes, you’ll have to start from scratch. It’s okay. Go at your own pace, and while you guard yourself, you will be able to trust someone enough again to make love.