Why I Hate The Words ‘Sexual Assault Survivor’


Trigger Warning: The following essay deals with assault, rape, and PTSD.

I hate the term “sexual assault survivor.”

“Survivor” implies that it’s over.

This has been an ongoing internal struggle for five years.

I’ve cried myself to sleep for five years. I’ve suffered with panic attacks and eating disorders for five years. I’ve had flashbacks at incredibly inconvenient times and made a fool out of myself in public for five years. I can’t even count the number of nightmares or sleepless nights. I wouldn’t know where to begin.

This isn’t constant. I’ve become very good at disassociating myself from the event. Most of the time I can bury it back down and pretend that it never happened. Still, without fail, once every few months there will always be a handful of weeks that make me feel like I was just attacked all over again.

It dawned on me a few days ago as I sat on my bedroom floor crying that this will always happen. For the rest of my life, I will dedicate a handful of weeks per year to reliving the most horrifying moment of my life.

That crushes me. It breaks my heart. It makes me feel defeated.

I just want it to stop.

Occasionally, my phone will ring or I’ll get a text and, for a split second, I’ll feel excited. I’ll feel like there will be something on the other end that will cheer me up, that will make me feel better. As if I were going through a breakup or had just gotten fired.

But this isn’t that. This isn’t something that can be “gotten over” and there is literally nothing that can be said or done that will make this any better.

I’ve spent literally hours thinking about what could be on that phone that would make this situation any better at all and each time I come to the same conclusion.

This will never end.

Maybe I’ll be provided with a distraction but, inevitably, I will end up sobbing on my floor trying to make my chest stop feeling like it’s crushing me and telling myself to remember to breathe.

I will feel the exact temperature of the room that I was in. I will see the shadows and feel his sweat as it drips onto me. I will remember each excruciatingly long second that he was inside of me and the exact thoughts that went through my head while the event took place. I will never forget any of it. It haunts me. It always will.

Hell room.
My own personal purgatory.
I will never escape.

I didn’t “survive.” A part of me died that night – an critical part of me. My hope. My hope for any normal relationship, my hope for happiness, my hope for intimate bonds…my hope for a future. It was ripped away as forcefully as my clothes were.

I want to live. I love life. I love the sky, I love the music, the animals, the people, the holidays, the pointless traditions. I love the many different forms of art and literature and all of the wide range of emotions that they evoke. But I’m so tired. I’m tired and the idea of doing this for the rest of my life exhausts me.

I repeat; I do NOT want to die. I very, very much want to live. But I want to live a life without flashbacks. A life without constantly being taken back to that room. My former life. Life before the rape.

I was raped.

I did not survive.