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In the past month, our volunteers have spoken on returning to their place of sexual assault. Kristen spoke on the contrasting feelings she had directly after the assault and the time she returned. Jacqui didn’t want to let the memory of her assault control her decision to go back to a place of significance.

Our next returner prefers to remain anonymous. She has been a volunteer for AVFTI for 2 years. In that time, she’s put an incredible amount of work into bettering this organization. That passion comes from a deeply personal place: her first assault occurred at the age of 9 by a close family member. When she attended college, she was assaulted twice more. “I was 19, and I was partying a lot,” she said. I didn’t really realize what happened to me was assault until about a year and a half later, when I watched a documentary about campus sexual assault.”

When the realization hit, she told friends. She talked to the police. “It was like a whirlwind of emotion and inaction from others all at once.” No change happened. Her mother didn’t believe her. “No one realized that even though I had said no, that somehow I still had some blame because I agreed to go home with this person.”

When she returns to the house she was abused in as a child, she feels extremely emotional. “I watched my childhood innocence slowly melt away in that house. I think of what could have been different if none of [the abuse] had ever happened.”

Her places of assault have two different feelings. The place of her first assault in college doesn’t associate many memories. She said this is a good thing. For her, this signifies peace. Since her realization of her assault, she says her support system has made all the difference. “It took me two years to realize that I was actually assaulted, and I didn’t get the right support initially. I think the right kind of support directly ties into recovery after assault and abuse-that’s what happened with me.”

“Lastly, I see the apartment complex I was assaulted in every day, because of its position on campus and the proximity to my work. I have since been back many times since that night because of other friends who have lived there-and all of those memories have been good ones. So I look on that place now, with those memories that I have made with people who actually care about me. And that’s helped me feel at peace with that location and that assault as well.”

Her biggest struggle has been processing emotions at such a delayed time. Returning, she said, has helped in that reconciliation process. “When you go through something like this, you don’t want that place or this person to dictate your very emotions. You feel so out of control after something like this happens to you, that to think your emotions could hinge on what should be an arbitrary or even a happy place… But, especially recently, I have been working on processing those feelings and recognizing that it’s okay if I’m not okay.”

Though returning has helped her, she was careful to say that returning to a place of assault should be on the victim’s terms. “Take that time to take the control back, for yourself. It’s a very powerful thing, deciding that something isn’t going to affect you anymore, or at least, you aren’t going to be afraid of something anymore. I think every survivor should get their shot at that.”

“I can’t stress enough, that the right support to a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault is paramount. I think if I would have gotten that right away, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to process through my emotions and to realize that I had been assaulted and abused,” she said. “If you are reading this, and you do not know how to respond to someone who comes to you discussing their assault, do one simple thing: validate them. Believe them, and support them. Their recovery could be incredibly improved if you support them the way they deserve to be supported.”

 

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