Heartbreak

A Survivor's Fear: When Your Abuser Is Released

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sad woman

By Sabrina Sivert

I got the phone call last week: “Your rapist is being released.”

I remember feeling like my world was crashing down, and tears rapidly began running down my face.

At this point, I felt like everything I’ve worked toward was gone. Little did I know, as that phone call went on it got worse.

I found out my rapist, abuser, and the scariest person I know was going to be moving back to my small hometown.

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The risk of bumping into him or my family seeing him and knowing the talk that would fill the town again made me feel sick. It felt like I was getting punched in the gut over and over again.

I felt like I was in a nightmare.

How can this be happening to me? What did I do so wrong to deserve this? These are just some thoughts I had during this moment, being a survivor.

As the days went on, I was lost, confused, hurt, and scared. I Googled: “What do you do when your rapist is released?” “What are the rules after your rapist is released?” “What is the chance or percentage rate of them assaulting again?”

And my biggest fear yet, “What do I do if he finds me or contacts me?”

I kept Googling, kept searching, but I was finding nothing! “How could this be?” I kept thinking. I know other survivors go through this with their rapists.

I began to feel alone all over again. I began replaying everything he did to me and said to me, the nightmares started again, and I feel like everywhere I go I see him or hear him.

I went through all this pain and suffering every day with after-effects, and he gets to be released early and go about his life. How is this fair? Once again, I felt like I was being punished for what someone else did to me.

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It’s been a little time now since his release. As time has gone on, my anxiety and fears have reduced a bit. But I don’t think the fear of running into him, the fear he’ll do it again, or him finishing what he started with me — like he stated before he went to jail — will ever go away.

I always have my guard up and I’m always thinking about what I would do if I ever saw him again. I feel like I’d freeze from the fear he’s left in me.

I never realized how much safety and security I felt with him being in jail until it was being taken away from me.

With each day leading up to his release and still today, I remind myself I have gone through much worse and this too will be okay.

I remind myself of the girl who fought so hard to stay safe, the girl who was brave, the girl who was strong, and, most importantly, the girl who now holds the title of “survivor,” because that’s what I did.

I survived my worst days and made a beautiful life for myself, and will continue to fight for myself and other survivors.

It seems like no one talks about this part as a survivor so I decided that I would share my experience for those who may be looking for answers like I was.

It’s scary, unfair, and frustrating to be a survivor of sexual assault. It’s a constant battle. With each new stage of life comes new fears, all while still holding onto the old fears.

You have to constantly learn to repair yourself from the wounds another person left, a person who took so much from you, a person who left you broken and hurt, a person who couldn’t care less about what they did. And that is the hardest thing to do as a survivor.

But we do it because we have to.

Just know you’re never alone and this phase of being a survivor will pass too. You got this.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment, assault and/or abuse, you are not alone. Visit RAINN.org for resources or call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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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.