Its been three weeks since I told my close friends, family, community and any stranger on the internet who cares about when I was assaulted. There are a few things I want people considering doing this to know: (note that this post is a large amount of projection on my part, feel free to laugh at my life of late)
1. You will feel an enormous sense of relief... initially.
I felt elated for almost a week after the initial meeting where I told everyone and launched the blog. I was receiving wonderful comments and feedback. I didn't feel like I had to lie to everyone all the time about why I was stressed/angry/getting drunk a lot. It's relieving to feel heard and the response from my community was brilliant. They said "we care" and "we're willing to help however that may be".
2. You will doubt yourself daily, sometimes hourly.
Did I do the right thing? Have I destroyed the Perpetrators life? Was my account as accurate as it could be? I mean it was six years ago. Am I doing this for the right reasons? Am I strong enough to continue on with this so publicly? Am I really ready to get sued? and so on, you get the idea.
3. You're gonna feel alone. Real alone.
Society operates on the assumption that we live in a just environment and if an injustice happens we have a big old system called THE LAW the deal with that injustice. If you there's an injustice and you don't want/can't use the system in place to deal with it, you're on you're own. We're trying to address this without a frame work. It's scary and the haters get to you.
You can have all the social justice/feminist theory you like in your brain, but the world isn't ready for you yet. It isn't ready for the others who agree with you either and we all have to go back to work and get harassed, get on the bus and deal with the public's innocence, look at billboards telling you "you are nothing if not young and perfectly beautiful". Your value in society will still be what society wants you to be.
Even the wonderful people who contact you with stories like yours don't make you feel less alone. They just make you feel like there are sooooo many of us who are alone with our pain, our secrets, our silence.
4. If you are predisposed to depression/anxiety it's gonna kick in. Hard.
Therapy and counselling are going to become really good friends. Your immediate support system of friends, lovers and allies will not be enough. You're going to need professional help and some of that professional help is going to be bullshit. You're going to get recommended to male doctors who don't get it. Therapists who think you need to go on meds ( I'm not against meds per se, I am against any course of action from the medical establishment which doesn't address the actual problem. It's like giving someone painkillers for a chronic headache without asking them why their head hurts). Our society doesn't know what to do with you, they want you to be silenced because its really uncomfortable to be around that much truth.
5. You're going to get angry. Rage filled really.
You will be angry at everyone periodically. No one is safe from your rage. Not your Mum, your best friend and especially your partner. Your anger will be misplaced mostly and your emotions will make no sense.
This is because you'll be feeling let down by the legal system, yourself not not doing something sooner/better, your friends for not supporting you better; even though you may not know what that looks like. Your rage will be because of every time you have ever felt marginalized and couldn't do anything about it. It will be because of every time your had privilege and didn't realize. It will be because you can't express in words to enough people who need to hear, how you feel and why.
You'll be angry because you are lonely and you put yourself there.
6. If you drink/smoke/take drugs/binge eat, your desire to do these things will increase.
Sometimes the healthy things to process and deal with your shit aren't what you want. Sometimes you don't want to have to process the last person who stopped you in the street and told you how brave you were and then told you in detail about how they were raped by their teacher/friend/lover/father and how they have never told anyone before you. Sometimes you want to get drunk and watch crap anime movies, smoke weed and laugh at cute kittens on the internet or eat chocolate cake just so there's something nice and sweet in your face for a moment.
If you're feeling like you want to have moments of escapism- tell someone who loves you and who doesn't have addiction issues. They will look out for you and make sure you don't become what I like to call a "waster." They'll make sure you get to work, get your laundry done and generally keep your life in order and will tell you if your escapism is out weighing your real time.