Life after sexual assault or rape, my personal story

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I am a survivor of multiple sexual assaults and rapes.

I wasn’t planning on talking about this on the blog just yet, but there’s a reason I share this now.

Several months ago I did an interview with a podcast called Ending the Sexual Dark Age. One of their listeners wrote in saying she’d been raped and was asking for help. In a moment of bravery, I saw their call on Facebook for people to interview and reached out.

JV and Shara were wonderfully generous and kind. To be honest, I didn’t remember much from the actual interview because of adrenaline and being in my on-air head space.

Well, the episode went live today. You can listen to it here.

I will say BIG OL’ TRIGGER WARNING on that link. I speak pretty bluntly about my rapes and my triggers, and it won’t be easy for some of you to listen to.

You can hear the listener question at 6:25. I come on at 14:18 and speak for about 20 minutes.

One quick note – towards the end of my interview it sounds like I’m getting choked up. In fact I was choking. I’m not crying when you hear my raspy, gaspy voice. That is me having trouble swallowing. Ever the professional, eh?

I am very proud of this interview even though it feels scary to be so public about something so personal.

That said, I conducted this interview wearing my sex coach and sex educator hat.

I sound formal and put together (I think), and I wanted to share something else with you that creates a more comprehensive picture.

I happen to put on a really good show.

The truth is that my journey is on-going and complicated and scary. It’s scary as hell.

Some days I don’t think about it at all – the trauma. Actually, most days are like that. But the days when I do think about it, I get angry and so sick to my stomach.

My body doesn’t feel damaged, but my mind does in those moments.

Because rape and sexual trauma are the ultimate mind fuck.

Know when it’s the worst? When I’m in a sexually charged situation – like a play party I recently attended with my partner or when I’m in a dungeon watching all the fun, kinky things going on.

It’s like all the most broken pieces of me rush to the surface and I can’t make sense of what’s real and what’s not.

I didn’t want to admit that that was my truth because fuck that sucks.

I teach sex for a living! I talk about it every day! With my clients, it’s barely a blip on the radar. On my podcast where I talk about all sorts of sex and sex acts, nothin’.

And yet, when I’m in a sexual setting with other people? I feel something ugly and dark stir in my belly. Even sitting here now, in a coffee shop in broad daylight typing about it, I can feel it uncoiling. It is cold and long and heavy and dark.

I don’t want this to be my truth or my story.

But there it is.

I am sexual assault and rape survivor, and these things have fundamentally changed who I am as a person.

In many ways, they’ve made me stronger. I have learned that my courage and bravery know no bounds. I know I am a warrior in spirit and in mind.

I also know a deeper and more profound empathy than I thought possible, towards other survivors, towards other’s suffering.

I have learned how to cope. I am allowing myself to heal at my own pace. I sit in the feelings that feel really yucky. I don’t deny myself the discomfort or the horror, but I also don’t let myself get stuck in it. I know how to let them drift in and then drift away.

That feels good. I know I’m not static or stuck. That I’m becoming something new.

I’ve also found power in communities of people like me, I’ve heard my own story echoed by others in online forums and being able to lend support feels like I’m reaching out to myself in a way.

And I find the things I do not have words for in the art of others.

This piece on PTSD captures the bizarre new reality following a traumatic event perfectly. Share it widely and liberally. PTSD: The Wound that Never Heals.

I also really love Laura Weiner’s paintings on PTSD, which you can view on her website (please note, some of the images are disturbing).

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because as important as my interview was, I feel like it was only half of the story. It was the half that is put together and objective and able to create distance.

The untold half, the half I’m writing about here, is that I will never be the woman I was before that last rape (which was the most traumatic for me).

I will probably never be able to skip into a sexual situation and feel unburdened and carefree and safe. I would love that, but I’m not going to force myself to get there. Not until I’m ready.

Right now, I feel safe with my partner in ways I haven’t felt safe in my whole life. And at some point, I hope to experience that kind of safety with others.

But I know this is not a linear journey.

There is no timestamp on trauma. There isn’t a formula that you can insert yourself into to get from horror to healed.

If you have suffered any kind of trauma or PTSD, but especially sexual trauma, I want you to know that you are not alone.

I want you to know that you are lovable and valuable and powerful.

I want you to know that it’s OK if you have bad days or if you get triggered or if you thought you were past it and then you step on a land mine and everything crumbles again.

I want you to know that it was not your fault, no matter what the voices in your head tell you or the people in your life.

I want you to know that all of your feelings are important, so please allow yourself to feel them all. And if you need professional help or support so that you can do that safely, let me know. I know some awesome therapists and counselors who can put you in contact with people.

I want you to know that you don’t have to rush to heal, but you also don’t have to stay broken.

Healing and taking back your power do not make the horrors you experienced any less horrible, just like forgiving your attackers does not make their actions OK. It simply helps to ease your burden.

And that is something I continue to work on for myself – forgiveness.

So here I am – imperfect and vulnerable and uncomfortable because I want every single person who reads this to know life after trauma can be pretty damn spectacular.

Because of my rapes, I learned the power of consent and teach it far and wide and unapologetically.

Because of my trauma, I finally allowed myself permission to become a full time sex educator and coach because I knew the world needed to hear what I have to offer.

Because of my story, I fell in love with one of the most amazing human beings on earth.

Your life is not over after tragedy.

It simply takes on a new meaning with new rules, and stumbling your way through that can and will happen – be patient and gentle with yourself.

If you want to share your story privately, I am here to listen. If you want to share anything publicly, please comment below. This is a safe space for us all.

  • Alex Daraseng

    Dawn, you are an inspiration. You are not alone and this is not the end of your story. You are re-writing your life and creating new chapters filled with hope, laughter, and abundance. Often when the skies are darkest, that’s when we see the brightest stars. And you, dearest Dawn, you are definitely a shining role model.

    • You light up my life and I treasure every moment I have with you.

  • Patricia Lynn Stokes

    Dawn thanks for having the courage to share your story with us, xo from your #Freedomhackersister
    xo

    • Thank you so much, Patricia! I appreciate the support. WOOHOO.

  • You’re beautiful. So Brave. I haven’t listened yet. I will create a space to listen soon. Sending love. You are changing the world… Go for it!

    • Thank you for the support, Fai!!! It means so much. World change – HERE I COME! 😉

  • That’s amazing, Dawn. Bravo for your courage. You have an amazing spirit.

    • Doing my best and having fun while I’m at it. 😉 Thanks for the support!

  • Wow. Huge hugs for the courage to share your story because certainly, there are many that need it.

    • Thank you so much, Leah. Your support is so appreciated.

  • Lots of love Dawn. You are so brave, I must say. I am a practicing psychologist {I chose to specialize in marketing} but during training, I was humbled to have the opportunity to meet brave people. PTSD, is one hard beast to beat and is tricky in itself – since the people around the PTSD survivors tend to assume or expect that it would or has to go away. But things aren’t so simple. For one, I can empathize {not only from a practitioners’ or a common bystander perspective, but…} from someone who know PTSD firsthand {as a survivor}. Hugs and Love, xoxo

    • Sara, you are beautiful and brave and exquisite. Thank you so much for the support and for sharing. Hugs and love right back at you.

  • Janet Hoover

    I’m so very touched by your story. You are so brave and your courage is inspiring. Sending much love, respect and virtual hugs.

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