SURVIVOR OR VICTIM

After being sexually abused, you ask yourself, “How will I ever move on with my life?” You often wonder if you’ll ever heal and be able to live a normal life again. Does the pain and anger of what happened fill you and ruin any chance for you to have a normal, happy life? Do you ever forget? Will you ever look at yourself the same again?

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The questions go on. What will your future be like? Will you stop trusting everyone? Will you forbid yourself to love again? Will you ever love yourself again? What will life be like after the abuse?

There are no simple answers to these questions. Everyone heals differently and is affected in different ways. The question you should ask is, “How do I choose to live my life after sexual abuse?” You can choose to fight or give up. You can be a survivor who fights to keep going on or a victim who closes him or herself off to the world. It’s all up to you. An abuser wins when you give up, but he or she loses when you fight to rise above what happened to you. It’s your choice; will your abuser win or lose?

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I was sexually abused by a boyfriend and a friend. After the abuse from my friend, a girl, I became confused about my sexual orientation. I read books on it. I wasn’t sure who I was. My body reacted in ways I didn’t understand. It took time to sort out my thoughts and understand what happened to me. I even let a guy I barely knew touch me just to see how it felt and how I would react. I had to do some soul searching. I was already in a depression and the depression deepened. The abuse left me feeling angry, confused, lost, disgusted, and helpless. I knew healing from it would take time, but I had to fight for it. I couldn’t let her win. I wanted to be a survivor, not just a victim.

I thought I could never trust a friend again or become close to another woman again. I had dreams of the abuse, but something in me wouldn’t let me give up. When I started working after taking a year off from college, I made new friends, some bad and some good. I wanted to hide in a corner and pretend I didn’t exist, but what kind of life would that be? I kept fighting. I tried hard to bury the memories, but I realized I had to face them first and accept I was not at fault.

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When I was abused by my boyfriend, I swore off men. I stopped dating and spent my time going to work and back home. How could I ever love again? A friend offered to set me up with a guy who was renting from her. I kept saying no, but my therapist and friends encouraged me to go on at least one date. I found it difficult to open my heart up again, but I gave it a try. He made promises I couldn’t walk away from. My life had to go on. I had to let myself love again. When the new man said, “I love you,” I said it was too soon. So he kept telling me using sign language, and in time I to was able to say, “I love you” back. I learned to love again, and after thirteen years and almost eleven years of marriage, I’m still falling in love with him.

My life had to continue. I couldn’t give up. It took a lot of work, but I did it. The scars from the abuse were still deep in my soul, but the wounds did heal. I went to therapy. I wrote notes to my abusers and I continued to push forward. I didn’t want to be just a victim; I wanted to be a survivor. Sometimes the memories come back in dreams. I can never completely forget, but I choose not to let the past ruin my life, my future, and me. The memories no longer control me. I learned to forgive them for my own benefit. I live a happy life because I rose above my abuse and my abusers lost. I am a winner.

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Don’t let abuse make you just a victim; fight to continue on, to trust again, to live again, and to heal. Live your life and find strength to stand tall. Ask for help, tell someone, and work hard to help your inner wounds heal. Be a survivor. Don’t let your abuser be the winner. Share your story with others. Your story can help others become survivors, too.

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I learned to love again, I learned to trust again, and I fought to go on. Because I did, I stand before you a survivor. I share my story with you so you, too, can become a survivor. Because I fought to heal, I stand within the radiant light of strength.

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