Finding love after trauma

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Because I was sexually assaulted when I was 6, I was confused at 14 when my boyfriend didn’t ever ask me to have sex.

I thought that his lack of interest in my sexuality meant he must not be really interested in me. After all, some guy when I was 6 always wanted to touch me after we hung out. Why didn’t my boyfriend?

After going through repeated assault over about two years until I was seven, I believed as a teenager that sexual actions were the only things I could do to keep a significant other around.

It confused me to think males could be interested in me not to explore my body, but to explore me as a human being.

In many ways, I consider myself incredibly lucky to have so much time between now and when the assault happened to me. It took me all these years to realize my boyfriend doesn’t care about sex. Rather, he cares about me and my feelings. It was hard to get to this point.

But now that he’s in my life, I’ve been able to shift what I saw as my strengths from sexual exploitation to the qualities that really make me who I am.

It’s perfectly fine to find happiness alone. Survivors need to prioritize finding strength in themselves rather than someone else.

But on this Valentine’s Day, if victims of sexual assault are in a relationship or are looking for a significant other, I hope they are able to find someone to trust.

Find someone who constantly asks you if you’re okay with something, from kisses to coming over to commitment.

Find someone who validates your story and tells you he or she believes you. Find someone who reminds you as often as possible that you’re loved and you’re enough, with or without sex.

If you love someone who is a victim of sexual assault, do these things for them. It means the world to be able to place my trust in someone when I did not have the capability to trust at all before.

I had a lot of days last year when dealing with my past was hard. I’d invite my boyfriend over, and we’d have a decent time, but right as he’d get ready to leave, I’d collapse on our apartment floor in a panic attack.

Find someone who sits down with you when you’re hysterical and lets you know that it’s okay not to be okay. Find someone who truly believes you have the strength to get back up, because you’ve done it time and time again.

Sometimes when it’s hard, I can articulate what I’m feeling, but other times, I can’t find the words to say.

Find someone who listens when you can speak, and someone who waits for you when it takes a longer time to process trauma.

Do not settle for someone who crosses lines and is inconsiderate to insecurities and fears.

I have a caring, considerate significant other who is careful about boundaries and has gained my hard-earned trust. I’m lucky to have who I have, but any other girl like me should have the same experience finding love.

Nobody deserves any less.