My life after sexual assault: How I was finally able to move on and heal from the pain
This piece was originally published on Aug. 16, 2018.
CBC has published this piece anonymously to ensure those involved are not identified.
I never thought that I would be able to do better than my ex-spouse. I think that is one of the reasons I stayed with him so long.
He was the best I had ever had. He treated me better than any partner had. I think I used that to rationalize staying with him.
Most of my relationships had been emotionally and mentally abusive, along with some sexual abuse. This one didn't seem to be, so it was heaven compared to my past. Unfortunately, it turned out to be just the same as all the rest.
I realized this after we had bought a house together, after we had become common-law, after I had told him I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life. I figured I was stuck, and this was the best I would ever get.
'I didn't have to settle'
It all changed when I met my current spouse. I met him online. He lived a seven-hour drive away from me. I never thought anything would come of it other than friendship. We talked quite often and found out we had a lot in common.
My ex-spouse and I had agreed on an open relationship where we were free to see other people if we wanted, but I was still quite hesitant as it was something I never tried before.
I can barely believe how much things have changed.- Sexual assault survivor
It was through this new, blossoming relationship that I learned there was something better out there. It was possible to have a relationship free from abuse and fear.
I didn't have to settle.
My new partner treated me in a way I had never experienced before. He gave me things that I didn't even realize I needed but have now become a regular part of how we treat each other.
'I gained my freedom that day'
Things with my ex-spouse spiraled downward as his abuse got worse. I finally gained enough courage to tell him I wanted to leave. It didn't go over well. His anger turning to grabbing, pushing, groping, guilting, and pleading with me to stay.
In the morning I told my new partner what had happened. He told me to call my parents and get the hell out of there. My parents came to help me move out while my ex-spouse was gone, taking as much of my possessions as would fit into the two vehicles. Even though I lost my house, my car, my money, and some possessions, I gained my freedom that day.
Fast forward to now. I can barely believe how much things have changed. My current spouse and I have been together for four years and lived together for two. Moving to Saskatoon gave me a fresh start and a new life, so to speak.
I am the happiest I have ever been and my health is the best I have ever experienced. I have been able to heal from all the abuse I have experienced over the years.
'You are not alone'
I never realized that a lot of what I had gone through is considered sexual assault. At the hands of my ex-spouse alone, I went through one rape and at least two incidences of sexual assault per month for four years straight.
My current spouse has been a huge support and part of my healing process. He has been with me every step of the way, always beside me and lending me his strength when my own is gone.
I experienced serious mental health effects from the trauma my ex inflicted on me. I got panicky when my neck was touched or anything tight was placed around it. I always felt guilty for saying no if I wasn't in the mood for intimacy. I would feel fear if anyone around me got angry, even if it wasn't directed at me. If I accidentally spilled or broke something, my first instinct was to freeze in preparation for a scolding.
Those reactions are much less severe now, thanks to my wonderful spouse. He's always gentle, kind, and patient with me. He has never stopped showing me what a healthy relationship is like.
One of the biggest things he has done for me, which should be done in ANY relationship, is acknowledging my right to say no. I don't even have to tell him a reason, he just accepts it and reassures me that he is not mad or upset. Quite often I will start crying out of sheer relief of not having to feel pressured anymore to do things I don't want to do.
If I accidentally make a mess, he tells me it is no big deal and helps me clean it up. He never gets mad or raises his voice at me for it. He validates my feelings, no matter what they are. He holds me when I cry and celebrates with me when I am happy. Overall, he is his amazing and beautiful self.
Without his support, I would not be where I am today. I would not be able to share my story to further my healing. I would not be able to have a voice for those that don't. I would not be able to show others that there can be life after sexual assault, a good one at that.
Above all, I would not be able to spread my message: Just remember, you are NOT alone.
If you are a victim of sexual violence, please contact your local sexual assault centre for help. In Saskatoon the number is 306-244-2294, or visit www.ssaic.ca