Self Care & Sexual Assault Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

I have eleven drafts waiting in my blog. Eleven. I guess I just assumed none of them were worthwhile, or perhaps I was too caught up in the opinions of others around me and what they would think of what I had to say. Well, today, I finally found something to write about that I know is worthwhile.

It's April, which means Sexual Assault Awareness Month is upon us. While this is a great opportunity to educate those around us about the growing epidemic of sexual assault on campuses across the country, it also can be emotionally and physically draining -- especially for survivors. Self-care is not only crucial during this time when we are heavily discussing and hearing about the issue of sexual assault (thus likely reminding ourselves of our own experiences), it is absolutely necessary.

So, let's talk about self-care. Easier than it sounds, right? Wrong. For sexual assault survivors, self-care can be confusing and well, downright hard. I struggle myself sometimes; it's hard to not be the "go-to person," and it's even harder to quit being a yes-man for hours, days, or weeks at a time. Trauma and PTSD can be blinding -- it's difficult to know where you need to draw the line and take a break or even remove yourself from a situation in its entirety. If it weren't for Title IX, I wouldn't have passed some of my classes in college. That's the downright truth. Sometimes, going to class is a struggle. Getting out of bed is a struggle. So to dedicate an entire month to raising awareness for sexual assault education and prevention, albeit empowering and encouraging for some, may not be so great for others.

Healing is not a linear process, nor is there a "right way." You cannot be a "bad" survivor. You survived. Point blank. And surviving anything, let alone a sexual assault, is hard.

It's important, especially during months like this in which our social media outlets are likely flooded with reminders of events to go to, ways to take action in your community, and how you can make a difference, to take a step back. Of course giving of your time is admirable and something most of us would love to do. But sometimes, that just isn't realistic. Sometimes, you may be triggered by the events or speakers or forums or social media that you need to take a break. And that is perfectly acceptable. In fact, I encourage it. I encourage it because I've had to do it, too.

Simple acts like taking a hot bath, going for a walk, yoga, putting down the phone, deep breathing, a mindfulness activity, like painting, or doing something you enjoy that is personal and doesn't involve others or the Internet, can be particularly beneficial. Taking time to reset our bodies and minds is imperative to our survival.

Like I said, survival isn't linear. There is no "right way" to go about it. You do what you can, when you can. What works for you may not work for another. What triggers you may not trigger the next person, and it's so important to remember this. Be mindful that while you may be struggling and someone else may be perfectly able to give of their time to an event that addresses sexual violence, that doesn't make you any less capable, worthy, or important. Someone else's agenda does not mean you should put your emotional health at risk in order to "prove" you're strong enough, passionate enough, or worthy enough. Just because you don't attend an event, write that post, retweet whatever, or talk about your story doesn't mean it didn't happen - again... there's no right way to heal. You heal how you, your body, and your mind see fit.

I am not saying it is a bad thing to champion around a cause that is important to you. I've spent the last few years talking about sexual assault on college campuses and what it means to me and how it has applied to my life and my story. I get it. I'm passionate about changing this ever-growing problem and I think someday, we can. However, I've taken a step back the last few days because I've had to. I've been forced to remember which is more important: my mental health or the story I'd write about attending such & such event during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And that's okay. And it's okay if you have absolutely no problem dedicating all of your time to events, speakers, and stories during this month. Just as there is no right way to heal, there is no right way to champion for a cause that has affected you, those around you, or is of importance to you... keep in mind, though, that self-care is one of those ways.

The truth is, only you know the best way to take care of yourself. And this might take some experimenting. Find what works best for you, and keep in mind that taking a step back from the constant influx of information surrounding the topic of sexual assault does not make you weak. It means you're a living, breathing human being.


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