Please Don’t Tell Us to Get Over It

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Since I began this journey of writing and sharing my story, I have met many wonderful survivors online.  They are a huge support network for me and I am grateful for every one of them.  The other day, one posted that people she cared about kept telling her that she just “needed to get over it”.  Many of the other survivors spoke up and said that they, too, had received this kind of comment.

I am not sure what people are thinking when they make this kind of statement to a victim of rape and trauma.  They may truly be coming from a place of caring, and simply are expressing their desire to see you feeling better.  But more likely, it comes from a complete lack of understanding of how this event can penetrate you to the core.  It goes down deep in your soul.  It’s not a physical injury that can heal in a matter of weeks or months.

I told this woman that I felt recovery from rape was much like the grief we feel when someone we deeply love passes away.  A part of you is missing, and you cannot put a time frame on the healing process.  People can empathize with that because they have most likely been through it before.  No caring person would say, “Oh, get over your husband’s death.  Move on.”  People would understand why, even years later, you would still feel the loss.

But, thankfully, not everyone has experienced the loss of rape.  It IS a loss.  It’s part of you being taken away.  For some of us, it was our virginity that was stolen.  For others, particularly victims of childhood sexual abuse, it was an entire childhood that was lost.  For all of us, it was our ability to trust that was lost.  For most, it was our ability to feel safe…in our city, in our home, in our own skin.

If you have a friend or family member who you are supporting through the devastating event of rape, please keep this in mind and be sensitive in what words you choose.  Healing is a lifelong process.  There will be unexpected flashbacks, even many years after the event.  Simple things may trigger your friend and they may not be able to give you a “good” reason for their reactions.  Be supportive and just be there.  Allow them to heal, and to grieve, at their own pace.

If you are a survivor, don’t rush yourself.  Know that this will take time.  It is a minute-by-minute process.  But it does get better.  And you are not alone.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Denise
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 09:08:32

    I think most of the language we use is inadequate to talk about such devastating trauma. I don’t think the word “heal” even covers it, although it’s meant in a loving way. The best thing I can think to describe it is, how do I integrate what happened into my life? How do I live with what I know? And most important, how do I make meaning? How is it possible to make meaning out of my life if this is what I’ve suffered? And as I’ve written on my blog, it’s not “one” meaning. It’s what happens when I’m awake and conscious to perceive what’s going on in the “now” of my life. But I have to choose, and so often I don’t want to. How do we live with what we know? How do we live *well,* and not in rage, despair and resentment? I know it’s possible – I know it. But then I walk through my days and I think, “How many more of them without this piece of me? How damn many?” Part of working with trauma is watching others’ cope with it. I know, for instance, that even though I’ve not met you, you care about me, and I get to watch how you’re working through it which is what I need to do.

    So keep writing, and I’ll keep reading.

    Reply

    • Aimee
      Jun 25, 2013 @ 12:36:09

      You’re so wonderful Denise…I feel the same way about you. I know our traumas are different, but they’re similar in many ways. I may use some of your words from the above comment to share with those women who are wondering “when they will get better”. You are very wise!

      Reply

      • Denise
        Jun 25, 2013 @ 14:32:58

        Wish I felt wise. Use anything to help anyone you can. What is the same about what we lost is, as you said in your post, a piece of us is gone. You’d said that a long time ago, which is why I feel like I “get” some of what it’s like for you, for others. Something has been taken – the form is different, not the content. We feel less than we ever did, and even more vulnerable to the what-ifs. Which is in all our best interests not to dwell on.

        Hugs to you, so many hugs.

  2. Awake BW
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 14:23:50

    Very beautifully written and so very true. Sometimes the insensitivity towards people dealing with trauma like this appalls me. It is yet another symptom of the male dominated society we live in. “You were only raped, and it was years ago anyways, why aren’t you over it?” So charming.

    Reply

    • Aimee
      Jun 25, 2013 @ 19:16:59

      Thank you, Awake. I agree that non-survivors can sometimes trivialize this experience, as if it’s the same as any other injury you might experience. I wish they understood.

      Reply

  3. Cat
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 15:41:43

    Being a victim of child sexual abuse and violent crime, this post strikes a chord.
    Innocence and trust are lost forever. Trying to function without them and interact/live with other people, at times, feels impossible.

    In my experience, this is something we never “get over”. As survivors, we might learn to accept and live with it as best we can, but there is always a sense of great loss.

    Reply

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