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Blogging About Sexual Assault

Posted Apr 07 2010 7:21pm
April is sexual assault awareness month. Approximately 1 in 4 women will be assaulted in their lifetime. Look around you at the 4 closest women and then... start talking.

I used you. I'll admit it. I started this blog as a way to talk about all the health and fitness research that I geek out over so much in real life, thereby giving my long-suffering friends and family a break. But as I got writing, I discovered that for me blogging is so much more than just words. It's free therapy! And in my mind, one can never have too much therapy.

It all started when I first delved into the reasons that I got into exercise. Sure it was to lose some baby weight but the timing was no coincidence. When I was just a few weeks pregnant with my second son, I found out an ex-boyfriend of mine from college (referred to on this site as simply G. or occasionally as Very Bad Boyfriend - not because I'm afraid of being sued or that he'll find me again but because saying his name still turns my stomach.) had been arrested for sexually assaulting a girl in my old college town. After five years of nightmares, I realized for the first time that what had happened between us wasn't just between us after all. I decided to go to the police.

That phone call irrevocably changed my life. I discovered that he had abused other girls before me. And that in the five years since we'd broken up, he'd not only continued to molest but the attacks had increased in severity. He'd even earned himself a nickname in the local paper: The Night Stalker, due to his preferred modus operandi. Clearly he needed to be stopped. In the end, only three of his victims decided to press charges. That was a decision that I am admittedly ambivalent about. Law & Order: SVU, it wasn't. Quite honestly I still don't know if I did the right thing.

The court case lasted 9 months, the entire duration of my pregnancy. I was a wreck. I didn't eat. I slept too much. I had massive PTSD attacks. I barely managed to care for my older son, much less myself. And I cried more in those 9 months than I have in my entire life. When at long last he was finally sentenced - he got a year in prison with time served, mandatory sex offender counseling and seven years on the sex offender registry - my body heaved one last sigh and my baby was born the next day. At ten pounds, he was outwardly healthy but he had complications I blamed myself for. See, they've done studies that show when a woman is under severe stress during her second trimester - and it was at 6 months along that I faced him in the courtroom - that the baby suffers long-term neurological issues, particularly those related to elevated cortisol like anxiety disorders.

Guilt. About not reporting him sooner. About reporting him at all. About my baby and his extreme colic. It was omnipresent and overwhelming. So I did what felt reasonable at the time: I ran away. First I started with the hill next to our condo. Soon every morning I was rising before dawn to pound out my emotions on the pavement and drown them out with angry music in my ears (I refer to that as my A.F.I. System of a Down Chemical Romance phase). And that's how I got into fitness! Not exactly the inspiring story you thought it would be, eh? Well not yet anyhow.

I still hadn't learned to talk about it. I felt like people would be disgusted if they knew what had happened to me, what I had done. Stifled in real life, the words wanted out and they found a way. I wrote a book about my assault and it's 1,000 unedited pages (no joke) of unmitigated pain. I hadn't healed enough to write the final chapter of redemption. It ended the way it started: me, broken, on the floor. Fast forward a couple of years and a few timid attempts to tell people what I'd been through and I found blogging. Suddenly those words that had heretofore only been read by my sister and father had a more public outlet. It was you.

I reached out to you and despite my posts relating only tangentially to fitness, you reached back for me. And we held each other and cried. You offered me a listening ear, support, anger when I couldn't manage it myself and even the precious gift of your own stories.

Writing it all out here has been key in my healing. (Note: it didn't replace regular therapy - I did PLENTY of that too. I love me my therapy.) Where I used to have nightmares, I now have peaceful sleep. Where I used to feel my story pressing behind my lips waiting to be whispered to the next passerby, now the psychic pressure is gone. There was a phase after the court case where I couldn't read enough about the experiences of other women with rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and the court system. I think the librarian - if she ever bothered to look at my account, which I'm sure they're too busy to do - must have thought I had one hardcore fetish. And that need too is gone now. Thanks to all of you.

Why all this now? For some reason, several people have recently approached me about this subject in real life and on the Internet. And I have found myself telling my story again. But this time it's different. I'm finally speaking of it from a place of relative peace. I'll never feel great about it. Some regret will always lay like a sigh across my heart. But I don't fear the telling. Not anymore. So in an effort to consolidate all my posts dealing with my abusive relationship, sexual assault, the court case and the aftermath, I'm writing this as a clearinghouse of sorts. Here's my story.

The night I was assaulted and the question I still can't answer about myself.

The morning after.

More details about the assault, my abusive relationship and what I did to protect myself .

The connection between eating disorders and sexual abuse.

What it's like taking your attacker to court.

How the court case impacted my pregnancy and brought my eating disorder back.

The gut wrenching aftermath of the court case.

The many ways victims try to feel safe again.

I may have started by running away. But it was through kickboxing I finally found my scream .

Finally getting to punch someone as hard as I could was very therapeutic.

When the anger finally started to come out, it scared me. And thrilled me.

Dealing with my PTSD brought on in a fitness setting .

Managing physically intimidating situations in the gym.

My experience as a rape crisis counselor.

The problem with blogging about my sexual assault : banishing Internet trolls.

Why I don't condone reciprocal violence.

Teaching teenage girls to fight back.

The Not-Rape epidemic.
Even when you aren't raped, sexual assault still hurts.

The regrets I still have.

What about you - have you ever blogged about anything intensely personal? Have you ever found healing by reading another person's story on their blog? Or does it make you uncomfortable when people overshare?
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