An Open Letter to Survivors | Guest Post

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Hello, friends – Valery here! Today I am so excited to have another guest post to share with you. Tori is an AMAZING woman that I’ve had the privilege of getting to know here in Denver. Also one quick note since tomorrow is election day….PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get out there and vote. It’s so important, it’s your civic duty, and if you’re a woman and/or person of color there are so many people who have come before us to fight for our rights to vote! We owe it to them AND ourselves!

An Open Letter to Survivors

By Tori Nicole, Women’s Sexual Health Educator

I have sat staring at this screen for a solid 20 minutes trying to figure out where to begin. I had a completely different topic planned out about orgasms and why they are good for our mental and physical health, but then events happened in our country last week* and I felt called to address that instead. I thought about what I might want to hear right now if I were in a different place in my journey. I’m not sure exactly, so I’m going to start with what I know, my experience. Don’t worry, I won’t be sharing any details, that isn’t what this post is about.

Over a decade ago I went through Hell. And I suffered through it mostly alone for two years. I didn’t know how to talk about it. I didn’t know how to keep functioning like a normal person. I remember thinking it was like I got initiated into some really fucked up club: “The People Are Really Shitty and You Can Never Unknow That Now” Club. I was angry and not kind to myself.

I don’t tell you this so you feel sorry for me. I don’t tell you this to remind you of your own experiences. I tell you this because my greatest wish for you is to find hope; to know you are not alone. I know how awful it can be to face the world after something like this happens. I know how hard it is to not give up on humanity. I know it feels like your very choices and how you treat yourself doesn’t matter.

But you do matter and how you treat yourself is the road to healing.

I promise you, you matter so very much. Now I’m not here to tell you that it’s easy. It’s far from it. Over a decade after my rape news like last week still sends me reeling. It seems like every time I think I’m “over it,” something comes up to show me I have something more to learn. And that is really what I want to share with you today: a few learnings so that maybe you can cope better.

Words Matter:

I have found it immensely powerful to speak my story, but I’ve learned the words I use to tell it matter even more. I used to say “I was a victim of rape.” I’m no longer a victim. I am a survivor. You see, something beautiful happens when you start seeing yourself as a survivor and not a victim. It’s a small step, but for me, was one in the right direction. It’s a start to taking your power back.

Its OK To Ask For Help:

You don’t have to carry this alone. I say this a lot because not only is it my personal experience; its statistically relevant. Sex crimes are often under reported and survivors express feeling isolated. Your friends you choose to confide in may not know what to say, but its ok to just have someone listen. For me, that was a good place to start. If in college, reach out to wellness centers and see if you can speak with a campus therapist. If that isn’t an option, call the National Hotline at 800.656.HOPE, its open 24/7 and completely confidential.

Not Everyone Is Bad:

This seems logical, right?  I know it’s not a matter of logic. I know that trust is hard to give strangers when someone (stranger or not) took some humanity away. It was, for me at least, an act of sheer will to make myself trust people. I needed a reminder that not everyone was bad for a long time too. It’s like working out, an emotional muscle I exercised daily. Of course, listen to your gut if someone gives you any sort of creeper vibe, but don’t listen to that voice that tells you to shut yourself off from the people you love, the world in general. It is still beautiful out here.

Treat Yourself Well:

THEY hurt you. You don’t have to carry that trend on. I completely understand that it’s hard to treat yourself like the queen (or king) you are (because yes, you are) when someone else treated you so much less than you deserved. I know how our self-worth takes a real hit. But you have to separate what they did with how you view yourself and ultimately, how you treat yourself. You have the hard task of loving yourself more than ever.

It Gets Easier, At Times:

I think the biggest thing I have learned is to accept that I’m never going to truly be “over it.” It’s a part of my journey and it’s something I choose to own rather than let it own me. There will be times something comes up to make me realize I still have some baggage, and that’s ok. These feelings are valid. I think it’s partially related to grief, but that’s another topic for another day. Point is, it will come and go, honor those feelings when they come, be kind to yourself and try to learn what you can from it.

Trust Yourself:

There will be times you doubt yourself and how events played out. ‘If only I did this instead of that, if I was here instead of there, etc.’ Don’t do that to yourself. What happened, happened. It isn’t your job to try to explain or rationalize it away. It’s your job to heal and that’s it. You heal how you want, do what you need to do. Just please, be kind and trust yourself. Don’t take on the blame for someone else’s actions. That isn’t yours to own.

Love Yourself:

This one is sort of on here twice, because it’s so terribly important. You didn’t cause this pain, but it is now your responsibility to heal it. No one is going to be able to do that for you, unfortunately. If I could, I’d take it away in a heartbeat. Maybe that’s the mom in me, or the empathetic response from someone who gets it – I can’t tell. But I want you to know you are so worthy, regardless of trauma you have experienced. You are worthy of love, especially from yourself.

I feel like I could keep going for days, but I’ll stop here. I just had to let you know that you are not the broken one. You are strong and whole, even if it feels like you aren’t. You are not alone, you can reach out if you ever need support (IG is a great place to reach me). You don’t have to feel defeated.

It’s ok if you feel all of these things by the way. It takes time, as cliché as that sounds. I just wanted to give some perspective on the topic. I wanted to let you know there is hope. There are ways to turn the hurt into something productive. I’m a women’s sexual health educator because of my past traumas. I have to help women get past their hurt. My point is, there is hope, there is light.

It is in you, Beautiful.

With so much love,
Tori

*This was originally written the week following Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination and Dr. Ford’s testimony. It is still relevant today as survivors of sexual assault can use these tips regardless of what is happening politically, however we want to remind everyone to make their voices heard and to vote. It is vital, no more than ever, to make some noise.

About the author:

Tori works with women to overcome sexual trauma and is in the process of becoming a certified sexuality educator. She’s currently working on her first book and starting a non-profit. Her passion for helping women is outshone only by her exhaustion from chasing around her two small children; and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She loves the ocean, cheesecake and has an affinity for dropping f bombs.

She can be reached online at www.empoweredboudoir.com or on Instagram at @empowered.boudoir