WARNING: Intense and potentially disturbing material follows.
Betsy, I truly appreciate the honesty about the assault you went through, but I’m very sorry to hear that. Would you want to tell us anything else about that experience, with an eye toward encouraging others who’ve been through similar trauma?
Sure…I haven’t actually ever really written or spoken about it, but I’ll see what I can do. 🙂
Thank you, Betsy. I’ll be praying for you as you figure out how to express that.
A few days later I followed up with Betsy, and this is where we are now….
Hi! I’m so sorry for the delay…it brought up a lot of stuff….here’s a first draft.
Today was a bad day. I thought about self-harming. But, I didn’t.
Each day is different; some days I know that I’m safe and that what happened to me wasn’t my fault…some days I’m not quite so confident.
3 1/2 years ago I found myself trapped in a sexually and psychologically abusive relationship. I was told what to wear, who I could talk to, and was repeatedly raped. Only by the Lord’s help was I able to terminate the relationship, as my mind had been so warped by the abuse. Had it not been for the support of my family and my hope in Christ, I don’t know where I would be now.
I buried everything that had happened to me for years. I became angry, depressed and suffered intense anxiety. My doctor said that I was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD. Though it was hard, due to the stigma that society has placed on such assistance, I began a therapy and a new medication. I also informed my pastor and a few key prayer warriors of my circumstances. Through these support systems, the bad days have gradually become fewer in number.
I still have triggers. I can’t have anything too tight on my neck, due to being held down by the throat. Unlocked doors give me intense anxiety, as well. I was working on a ship during the relationship, and my rapist had a master key. I was never safe. Even though he and I are now separated by nearly 9,000 miles, I still have moments when I feel unsafe.
To those who have found themselves in similar situations, I say do what you must to feel safer. I had to leave my positions on the cruise ship and as a 911 telecommunicator because there were too many reminders of what had happened to me.
I would also encourage you to report the incident, though I completely understand the desire and perhaps necessity to keep quiet. I was discouraged from reporting my assault and now I am left with little recourse due to the international elements of my case. If you have the opportunity to legally address your attacker, I greatly encourage you to do so.
I would also recommend that you let people that you trust at work or in your social circles know of your triggers so that they can help you. They don’t need to know everything, but most people are more than willing to help. Along those same lines, you don’t owe your story to anybody. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me why I left the cruise industry. I usually politely smile and comment on how much I enjoy being on land. They don’t need to know why.
Lastly, if you are a believer, pray. I went through a phase of anger at God for letting this evil happen to me. Now, I realize that I can use this event to help others. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do know The One who does!
Betsy, thank you, and we salute your courage and your honesty. What advice could you give to those who’ve suffered assault on how to find joy and peace and calm in the moment? What can you tell them that can help them live each day as overcomers?
As for finding joy, peace and calm, it can be difficult. Once your mind starts racing, it’s hard to stop. Scents and sounds that are calming can help me be still. I keep a eucalyptus spray by my bed for when anxiety hits and play classical music when I need to slow down. Once I have control of my brain, the most therapeutic thing for me has been thinking of all the good times around the event. I spent so much time harboring anger towards everything associated with my time on the ships because of my assault. A short while ago, I received a call from an incredibly kind former co-worker from my days on the high seas. Lucas reminded me of all the small things that I enjoyed about being onboard. When I think about the dark times, I can remember the inside jokes with friends, the kindness of the Staff Captain and Master, the daily stuffed animal tableaus left by my room steward, Francis…the list goes on. And once I start remembering all the good times I’ve had and all the friends who still stick by me, the bad memories start to fade.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us.
I pray it helps someone!
Thank you! 🙂
God bless, friend.