5-Year Traumaversary

5 years ago I experienced one of the worst events of my life.

Today I am celebrating it. Me, my existence, my resilience, and my survival.

5 years ago I wrote this piece and shared it on my personal social media. To this day it’s still one of my favorites. Not because it is joyful, but because it is true:

On February 28th, 2015, I was raped by two men.
I have realized that most people hardly want to hear the truth I have experienced. They want to hear comforting statistics and justified vengeance. They want to hear glorious recovery and the story of a naïve victim.
The truth is, I could have been stabbed, mugged, run over….and no one would have questioned whether these things had truly happened to me. They wouldn’t ask me to confirm details and defend my reactions to such things. They also wouldn’t go into lengthy discussion about whether I had deserved to have these things happen to me.
It seems that when someone takes your personal dignity, it becomes impossible for anyone else to take your dignity seriously. It becomes impossible for some to take the violent crime done to you, seriously.
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They want to hear that the men are in jail now. They want to hear that I went straight to the hospital or police station after it happened. They want to hear that my (ex)boyfriend blamed the men for what happened. They want to hear that I took every contraceptive on the planet because that’s the correct and liberal thing to do. They want to hear that rape culture is not real, and that if it is, it only affects the mind of boys and men. They want to hear that I am ashamed of what happened, and that I take responsibility for what was done to me.
| But all of these statements are false |
The men are not in jail. It took me several days to muster up the courage to tell anyone with authority. I blamed myself, and my ex told me that I “deserved to have it haunt me.” I did not take Plan B because I believe in both the freedom to choice, and the freedom to choose to say No. Through my own personal beliefs, I could not make myself blame the possibility of an innocent life for what others had done to me. Rape culture had convinced me for 6 years that if I only became numb enough and refused to care about what people did to my body- I would have the power to feel that it wasn’t so bad.
| And I am no longer ashamed, because it was not my fault. |
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They didn’t expect to hear that I pray for my rapists to one day come to terms with themselves – That I pray for my ex to find empathy for others even when he has not experienced their same situation – That I pray for the elder that told me in all good intention to “be more safe”; because she saw only the error of my ways in my story – That I pray for every man woman and child that has been traumatized and stigmatized by society – That I pray I remain Better, Not Bitter, than what has happened to me.
They don’t want to hear that I have been molested, sexually assaulted/harassed/bullied, and raped before.
But since I was recently raped, I have found that the more I try to speak, the less willing others have been to listen.
I have also found that I have been feeling the need to be heard more than ever before. Here is what I have to say.
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To the Survivors: I believe (in) you. What has happened to you is not your fault. Sometimes the people we hope to be there for us, judge us. But that is not your fault either. They do not know what it is like- they are trying to understand. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. You wouldn’t still be here if you didn’t have a purpose. Your assaulters may have temporarily taken your body, and your mind- but do not let them take your soul. Treat yourself. Be kind to yourself. You deserve happiness. You never deserved mistreatment and pain. Be alone when you need to, but do not shut out the world. Someone will need you to believe in them one day, as much as you need someone to believe in you now. Believe in yourself. Trust in yourself. You are not evil. What was done to you may have made you feel like a victim- but do not let this mindset turn you into a villain. You are not a victim- you are a Survivor. Do not be ashamed of this. Be proud to have walked through the fire and still be standing.
To the Supporters: If you know someone grieving their sexual trauma through anger, shame, depression- listen. Listen until they can speak no more. Listen with an open mind, an open heart. Be a warm shoulder of comfort. Not a cold shoulder of judgment. Avoid asking “why?” or “how?” questions. You may mean well, and wish to understand more about the situation- but these kind of questions are already answered by one simple sentenced; She/he was raped. There is no logic you can pin to a survivor for what they have gone through, the way they have reacted or felt. Do not tell your loved one that this happened through their own fault. Do not tell them to “be more safe”/ ”fight harder.” Do not insist on safety precautions that involve them changing themselves. This only makes the shame and blame worse. Do not pressure them to make decisions about their body or legal rights before they are ready. You wish the best for them- which is a beautiful thing. But they need air. Fresh air. Unhastened air. Give your loved one the power they have lost through objectification. Give them the power to choose when and where they would like to speak about their trauma. Don’t suggest reporting, taking medication, or seeking professional help more than twice if they say “no.” Their No has been turned on them before- do not be an additional pressure to their stress. Their healing is on their time, not yours. Trust your loved one. Trust them and believe them until they can trust and believe in themselves. Tell them how much you love them, and remind them of their purpose in your life.
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I have told myself since February 28th, 2015-
You Are Not What You Endure, But the Endurance Through Which You Survive It.
And I hope “they,” you, and many others find it easier to hear one another.
I do NOT want pity. I want PROGRESS.
Sadly, my reality is a reality that many can relate to.
Please share this so that it can reach someone else in need right now- we are not alone in any of these struggles.
May you be well.
May you be happy.
May you be free from suffering.
Love, Chelsea

A year later, in 2016, I wrote this follow-up post about my healing process:

A year ago I wanted nothing more than to fast forward several months and be completely over my situation. I thought it was just another bad event to pin in my book of memories and leave to collect dust. Another traumatic issue to bury and try to forget. But its all as fresh today as if it had happened yesterday..again.
I didn’t think then that I’d still be battling fears, anxieties, and sensitivities to this day. I didn’t think I’d have the problem of having people telling me to “move past it” and “get over it” as if it was a small bump in my day to day life. But I’m proud to be comfortable enough to share these issues with my network- Because I know I’m not alone, and I’d hate for anyone facing the same troubles to think that they are, either.
I can promise I will continue sharing this picture when I reach milestones in my journey back to sanity and self-worth:: because someone needs to know they’re not the only one. And someone else needs to understand that person.
These are my milestones so far:
I have become more quiet and contemplative than I used to be- but I have found that it saves me the energy required to take on the waves when they come.
I am slowly accepting the parts of me that will never die- and learning to encourage the parts of myself I want to grow.
I am coming to terms with the change of my pace, and trying my best everyday to not compare “my best” with another’s.
Most Importantly
Throughout this year I confronted all the layers of my past of sexual abuse- the layers that kept me from loving and accepting myself- and have made large steps in working with my patterns of self-doubt. Understanding the origins of them was only half the battle.
I am overwhelmingly grateful to be here to see another year, (let alone another leap year) and hope to continue nurturing patience and understanding for myself in this journey. It makes all the difference.
Again,
May you be well
May you be happy
May you be free from suffering

And today, on February 29th, I write this as both a response and reverence to my former and future self:

You’ve made it. You’re still here. Despite what you heard, and continue to hear.
You found grace and forgiveness without religion.
You re-traced your decisions in a moment of crisis and found reason to support and advocate for any person’s right to choose, and their right to take care of themselves first. You realize now that your decisions would have reflected this in a heartbeat, and now prioritize sexual education for all in your work. And that’s a beautiful revelation.
Taking it all in year after year has not been easy. And by far 2020 has tested your trauma in ways you never expected. You discovered gray areas, and those who have done harm without intent. You found your histories and defenses to be all rooted and intertwined in secrets kept unknown. You honed your passions and fueled your fire, and kept your reactions in check. You checked your progress, and monitored your lows to moderate your highs.
You decided that one day, you’d like to work with rapists. That despite what institutions and the prison industrial complex told you- you get to decide what justice looks like for you. You realized that justice isn’t sending someone away from society, but facing them head on and holding them accountable. Holding them responsible to society not within walls but within society itself. You realized that repentance and reparations are real, and that you have been owed. But that the form of those allowances does not exist in the current system- that the system that has failed yourself and countless others. You have learned that your vision of justice is recovery and trauma work with all persons, not only those who have been harmed. And you have realized that you want to hold an active role in not only your own recovery, but the recovery of others.
You have found your voice through work that feeds your soul in the hopes of feeding others who have been starved of visibility and recognition. You have come out of your shell luminous and contemplative. You have lost so much, yet still stand. And that is glorious.
Life was easier when all was black and white. It was easier when you could pray the pain away. It was easier before you realized that the work was worth it. But life is so much sweeter now. Not because of the sugar in your daily life, but because your taste has adapted to love the bitter.
Bittersweet is where I’ve landed year after year. And for once, I’m not fighting it. I’m riding it with opened eyes and perceptions. Still trusting that this is right where I need to be. And that where I’m going is exciting. My final form. The ultimate crescendo to my crisis- a reborn essence of all lost and mourned.
I’m looking forward to it. And I hope you are too.

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