November 14, 2021

How to be a rape survivor instead of a rape victim
By Jayne Warwicker

For some context here, I am myself a survivor of rape and yes, changing the word victim to survivor is more than semantics. You can then accept it,  own it, and can take back the power and slowly, yes you can move on.

You may want to pretend it didn’t happen and get on with life. I really wish it were that simple, but there is something in our psyche that won’t allow that.

Here are five steps to slowly moving forward:

  1. Acknowledge it. Say aloud that you were raped. It may feel scary at first, but trust me—eventually it will likely feel empowering. In the beginning, it’s important to be selective about whom you tell. Some people are caught up in their own issues and thus unable to respond in an appropriately supportive manner.  Many therapists are trained in helping you through rape recovery and are able to be supportive and compassionate. Best friends also tend to be pretty supportive and empathetic listeners. Start with one or, better yet, both. A rape crisis hotline is a good choice, too. (Note: If you were recently raped, going to the hospital for a rape exam and police report is an important first step.) Life coaches with relevant experience, although not Councillors can also work through your feelings and the impact that this trauma may have had on your life.
  2. Nurture yourself. It is very important to nurture yourself throughout this process.  Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend who was raped; be gentle with yourself; be patient with yourself; and do healthy things that make you feel good (a scented bubble bath, new hairstyle, exercise and yoga, buying yourself some flowers, etc.) AND NEVER, EVER, EVER THINK THAT IT WAS YOUR FAULT.
  3. Discover how you feel and get it out. There are two options for this step, and doing both is better than just one: write about your rape and talk about it. Talk about your rape with your therapist or life coach. Tell the story a few times. Tell it from different angles (for example, one time talk about what you were thinking and feeling, then another time talk about what your rapist was doing and saying). Tell a few more close friends, if you feel comfortable doing so. It’s OK to tell them that you don’t want or expect them to treat you any differently, but that you appreciate their sympathetic listening. Write in a journal. Perhaps even write a letter to your rapist. (In the vast majority of cases, you won’t send the letter but the act of writing the letter can be beneficial and help you sort through your feelings.)
  4. Learn about what other women have experienced. Learn about what is typical for you to be feeling, even if your experience was unique (and it was). Learn how to acknowledge and tolerate your difficult feelings. How can you do this? My favourite ways are books, workbooks, and support groups. Blogs, too! There is probably a sexual assault treatment centre and/or support group in your area. Go check it out. Lean on others.
  5. Nurture yourself! Go back to Step 2! It can take a few years, and perhaps decades, to work through a rape. (Some might never quite work through it, but the important thing to remember is that it’s possible.) It’s important not to focus on it every day, while at the same time not ignoring your feelings. Staying the course will help you make progress and heal. Should you still have experiences that you don’t understand, talk to your doctor. I was 3 years in before I realised that I had PTSD and since this diagnosis, life has been much more positive.


In closing, if you were raped, I want to say this: I’m sorry about what happened to you. I’m sorry you have to go through this; no, it isn’t fair. But even without knowing you, I know you can overcome this. The human spirit can overcome a lot and is stronger than you can ever imagine!

Love as always,

Jayne x

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