I remember walking down the dorm hallway after he left. It was usually full of people, but this day was different. There was no one around. It was the day that most everyone was leaving to go home for winter break.
I stumbled down the hallway, terrified, as I clung to the wall for support, that he would be there. Just waiting for me.
I’d like to think that he had no idea of the impact that he would have on me. The devastation that his single act would cause.
I’d like to think that I had an impact on him. That I haunt him in his dreams. That he never forgets my face or the terror that I felt.
I thought that day would be the worst of my life. That everything from that point on could only get better BUT you don’t often hear the struggles that survivors go through. The pain that they endure for years and years after the act. It wasn’t just one day that was the worst for me.
It was in the year and a half that I lost after the sexual assault.
It was in the 11 years that I had kept it a secret.
It was in the days that I was ready to end everything.
It was in that long, painful walk down the dorm room hallway when everything in my life had vanished, and I was no longer the Samantha that I knew.
MY IDEA OF SURVIVOR FAILURE
For years I was lost. Even after finding the man that would show me love and teach me that I was worthy of love. I was lost.
I couldn’t find who I was. I spent years trying to get back to that original Samantha. The one that has her ENTIRE life in front of her. The one who got into the university that she wanted. The one who was going to change the world. The one who had family and friends and a whole community supporting her.
In a single moment, that Samantha was gone forever.
I survived. I should be happy.
I survived. I should be thankful.
I survived. I should be proud.
I survived. I should be living.
Living. I didn’t even know what that meant anymore. I was this shell. So, yes, I did survive but I was no survivor. I was this shell of a girl who became a ghost. Trying to hide away. Trying to deny the pain.
Survivor failure to me means that yes, I survived but not really. For years, I failed at surviving, and here is why.
- I kept the sexual assault a secret. There were many reasons for this, and here are a couple.
I didn’t want anyone to feel the anger that I was feeling. Especially my parents. I didn’t want it to consume their lives as it had done to mine.
I didn’t want to carry other people’s blame. I already carried the blame around myself.
I let him in my room.
I froze and didn’t fight back. (Why was I never taught that freezing was a normal reaction. I thought I was weak for not fighting or running.)
I didn’t want to get asked questions about what had happened. I was reliving it every day in my head. I didn’t want to have to say it out loud.
By keeping the assault a secret, I gave him power. I gave him 11 years of my life with one single act. He controlled me. He manipulated me. He continued to wreak havoc on my life, and he didn’t even know that he had that much power.
- I didn’t allow myself to grieve the many losses I would experience. By keeping the secret, I never truly admitted to myself what had happened. This delayed my healing process UNTIL I had no other choice than to look it in the eye or continue down the path of self-destruction.
I didn’t just lose my virginity that day. I didn’t just lose my power to choose that day.
I lost the entire future that I had planned.
I lost the woman I was becoming.
I lost the confidence that I had in myself.
I lost my dreams and desires.
- I lived broken for 11 years. I didn’t know who I was. In that time, I became a wife and a mother. I thought that each time, that would be all I would need to patch the HUGE gap inside. A gap filled with darkness and shame.
- I thought I failed for how I was coping with the sexual assault. I’m not 100% ready to talk about how I coped publicly yet, but I will say that it brought more shame and despair into my world. It was toxic, but I continued to subject myself to it because I no longer cared if anything happened to me.
I thought I was broken beyond repair, and my life would be in a constant state of darkness.
- I thought that I was alone. I knew deep down that I wasn’t the only woman who had been sexually assaulted, but I still felt like no one understood what I was going through. I had to keep it a secret because no one would understand what had happened. No one would understand me.
Nothing did fill those gaps, though. Nothing until I looked in the mirror and knew that I needed to fall back in love with that woman staring back at me.
And just how did I do that?
A LIFETIME OF HEALING
I never really knew what the healing process was like until I decided I needed to move forward. I thought that it was going to be this beautiful transformation, and it is. BUT what you don’t realize is that the middle part of that transformation is messy, ugly, and extremely painful.
Seven years ago, I had decided that I could be anything I wanted. After telling my children that same thing when we made a big move across Canada. I didn’t know what I wanted. All I knew was that I needed to fall in love with the reflection that I could barely look at.
Little did I know that by letting my husband love me all those years ago, he was able to let a little light in, and with that, a flower began to bloom in the cracks that were so used to being in the dark. His act of love allowed me to believe that I was worthy of loving myself.
As we approach 15 years of marriage, I can look back and see all of the tragedy that he walked into, and he never once thought of walking away. Never once made me feel like I was weak.
I began my healing journey in October of 2014. I started a blog that was called The Original Samantha. That is where I shared my story once and for all. It was the most terrifying and the most freeing experience of my life. I now had nothing to lose but everything to gain.
Messages came in from complete strangers. Thanking me for taking the time to share my story. Telling me that I wasn’t alone. Supporting me every step of the way. It was the strength of these women that kept me moving forward. It was the support of these women that gave me the encouragement to keep healing.
I began the grieving process. A process that I had put on hold for 11 years. This allowed me to look at what I had lost in a new light. I began to realize that I was trying to become the Samantha that I was before the rape. Never realizing that it just wasn’t possible. She was gone. I had to come to terms with that.
My children were never going to know her, but I could share stories. Instead, I had to find out who I was in the moment. Who I had become, because this woman staring back at me was worth the fight to know. It was a painful process, but as I look back on 2015 and 2016, I realize how much healing I did in that year. I began to love all of me. I began to see that I was worthy of everything that I had ever dreamed of. My dreams had changed throughout the years, and as I began to rediscover myself, I began to look within to see what it was I wanted from my life. I had the courage to go after it and continue to go after it today.
I thought that I had failed as a survivor because I didn’t feel worthy of living my life. I thought the world would be a better place without me UNTIL I began a healing process that has taken me from a woman who didn’t know who she was, to a woman who is completely confident in her skin and is willing to do what it takes to change this world.
About the Author: Samantha is the owner and creator of Samantha Laycock Blogging. An Authentic Expression Coach for women ready to share their stories and heal from their past. She is 35 years old, a mother of 3, a wife of 15 years, a sexual assault survivor, and a big advocate for sharing your story through blogging.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is an annual campaign in April to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
2021 is the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year’s campaign theme is We Can Build Safe Online Spaces. For resources, information, and promotional materials on building safe online spaces, check out the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s webpage on Everything You Need to Know About SAAM 2021.
Photo by Izzy Park on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.
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