Self

Learning To Love Myself After Being Raped

Photo: Marjan Apostolovic / shutterstock
sad woman

By Sabrina Sivert

I was raped when I was a teenager. My body was changing and growing, then I had to add being raped to the mixture of growing up.

I already suffered with “body love” issues and the changes I was experiencing. Then someone used my body to please themselves, disregarding my voice and feelings.

He was pleased and happy while I felt absolutely disgusted and wanted to crawl out of my skin.

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I remember taking a scalding hot shower while sitting on the bathtub floor crying and looking down, hating all I was and thinking it was my fault that he raped me because of my body and who I was.

Fast forward to present day — almost seven years later — and I have since grown and realized that I should've never felt those feelings.

I should love and be proud of my body for surviving rape, not be ashamed of it.

I want to help other survivors with tips that helped me to re-love my body and heal my mind after being raped. My journey to re-loving my body and healing my mind began when I came forward about my rape.

When I first said the words “I was raped,” I began to understand that this was something someone else did to me, not something I had done to myself. It made it very real and I wouldn’t be able to deny it anymore for the rest of my life.

Several times, I wished I never came forward. I wondered if ignoring the feelings would make the pain go away. Holding in the pain built so much sadness.

For me, speaking out about my rape is the best thing I have decided to do for myself. The journey to loving my body and who I am comes one day at a time with many setbacks. I still have good days and bad days, as this is a forever battle.

Here are three tips to help you learn to love yourself if you’ve been through a similar situation.

1. Be nice to yourself.

It's easier to hate yourself and your body after rape, but we deserve so much better as survivors. I have learned to be proud of my body and mind for surviving months of being raped.

I feared for my life multiple times by his actions, but my body was strong enough to keep on fighting. He left scars, but I look at each of them now and I see courage and strength instead of pain and anger.

I remind myself daily that I did exactly what I was supposed to in my situation to survive. Celebrate this victory.

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RELATED: How Writing About My Rape Made Me Feel Used

2. Take control.

You don’t realize how many triggers can set you off until it happens to you. For me, it’s hearing a deadbolt lock, the word “toots,” someone complimenting my dark hair, and big brown eyes.

When I hear these things, it automatically takes me back to the rape and the remarks he made and the sounds I heard.

But I have learned that I am in control and can change the narrative. I love my dark natural hair and how it compliments my skin, so when I’m getting ready for the day, I tell myself this.

I’ve shared with people who are close to me things that upset me so they know. I have gone to places that triggered me in the past to create a new memory, something happy.

When you take control, even if it sounds simple or silly, it can really make a big difference to re-loving your mind and body.

3. Have boundaries.

Setting boundaries and knowing what you’re comfortable with can make a big difference on your body and mind. Relationships after being raped can be a very odd feeling. Whether it’s family, friends, or intimate relationships, something just seems off.

I felt for the longest time that I had a big sign taped on my forehead that said “rape victim” and that's all anyone saw. Setting boundaries and making sure my family, friends, and my now husband knew what happened to me, my feelings toward the situation, and what I was comfortable with sharing, helped me.

Being intimitate after being raped can be a terrifying feeling. Don’t ever feel like you have to do something that you’re not comfortable with. Work on finding a kind, loving, safe, and healing relationship with yourself and any other relationships. Only do what you’re comfortable with and make sure it’s with a person you feel safe with.

Learning to love yourself after being raped is a lifelong project. This journey to self-love has been the most frustrating, but most rewarding experience I could ever imagine. Always remember to be kind and patient with yourself on this journey.

Anyone affected by sexual assault can find support on the National Sexual Assault Hotline, a safe, confidential service. Contact The Hotline or call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member.

RELATED: An Open Letter To My Former Self, The Morning After I Was Raped

Sabrina Sivert is a writer, wife, and victim/survivor advocate who resides in Florida. Visit her Linktree account for more of her advocacy work.

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This article was originally published at Unwritten. Reprinted with permission from the author.