Recently, I read one of the most heartbreaking stories of someone who had been raped as a young woman. It was a guest post written for Fearless She Wrote, that I published on behalf of this writer. She wanted to remain anonymous and after reading her story, you’ll understand why.
I cried for hours after reading it because it caused me such distress to know that this woman is living with such trauma.
It’s never easy reading about someone else’s pain.
Then again, it’s not exactly a walk in the park when we write about our own.
But in that discomfort of trauma, whether we are reading or writing it, we are a part of something far more powerful than we may realize.
The power of connecting through our words.
With every story I read by brave men and women who despite the criticism and disbelief are standing up for themselves, I feel such a connection to them.
I feel connected as a sexual assault victim, but also as a fellow writer.
I know exactly how these writers take those little broken pieces inside of them and use them for good. I know how they ignore the internal doubt, wipe their tears, and type away until the pain feels a little less heavy on their shoulders.
I know how it feels because I’ve done it myself.
When I write about my trauma, I can feel exhausted and miserable.
The process is not easy. No one wants to relive the moments of an abusive past. Reflecting on the most painful memories of my life is exactly as it sounds, painful.
I don’t want to remember how my boss groomed me all too well.
I don’t want to remember how he tried to kiss me when he walked me to my car one night.
I don’t want to remember how powerless I felt when he put his hands down my blouse when we were alone in his office. Or when he did it again.
I don’t want to remember how guilty I felt when I went home and said nothing to no one.
And I hate remembering that I never reported him.
But I’m a work in progress. I am working towards forgiving myself for being angry at myself for so long when I should’ve been angry at him.
Writing about my trauma has helped me to heal, and I don’t ever regret sharing myself because I know my words may have helped someone else heal. But, everyone’s process and timeline of healing are different.
You may never be ready to talk about it, write about it, or scream from a metaphorical mountain top, “#MeToo!”.
That’s okay. You should never allow anyone to push you into sharing something you’re not ready for. Everyone’s timeline is different.
But if and when you are ready to share your pain, you hold the power to make a difference in someone’s life. That’s amazing if you think about it.
Whether your readers tell you or not, your story may resonate with other victims who may have no one else to talk to about these sensitive subjects.
You may be opening someone’s eyes who might have always blamed themselves for their rape.
Someone may read your story, someone who has convinced themselves that, “I should’ve known better. I put myself in that situation. I shouldn’t have been drinking. I shouldn’t have worn that skirt.”
And then, they read your story and realize it was not their fault.
Our stories need to be told because they create a necessary dialogue.
They stir thoughts inside of us and help us see things about ourselves. They might help us stop blaming ourselves for the pain that someone else caused us.
They start a conversation we need to have, all of us. About consent, talking about consent with our children, and about raising our young men and women to respect others.
Whether you share online, in-person, or anonymously, your story may help someone else find their voice.
You may think, there are a million stories like mine out there. Why would I add mine to the pile? Why is my story any different?
That’s what I thought before I finally published my article on my sexual assault in the workplace.
But I finally wrote it because my fellow Fearless She Wrote co-editor Gillian Sisley gave me the courage after I read her story.
And after I published it, a few people reached out and said my story had given them the courage to share theirs.
I was completely overwhelmed by the thought:
Gillian’s words gave me the strength to write my own words, which in hand, gave the strength for someone else to write their words.
It was a circle of healing. And it was beautiful.
For all of us who have suffered a violation of our bodies, death of a family member, grief, depression, suicidal thoughts, or any other trauma, when we tell our stories, we accept that our wounds will heal over time, but there will always be a scar.
Those scars will stay with us.
There is no going back to before the wound. We can’t change what has already happened.
What we can change is how we move forward, how we see our scars, and what kind of space we take up in the world now, scars and all.
I’d like to think that anyone out there with a scar would want to help someone else who is wounded. So they may help someone else help someone else.
And the cycle continues.
Thank you to every single person who has used this platform to share their selves, the good and the bad. Whether you know it or not, you have made a difference in someone else’s life.
Jessica Mendez is a full-time writer living in Las Vegas, NV. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from NAU and her master’s degree in family and human development from ASU. In 2018, she left her career in mental health to pursue a career in writing. She is currently working on her debut novel and a collection of bilingual poetry. Follow her on Twitter and Medium to read more of her work.
Image courtesy of Nathan Dumlao.