Caitlin Krause shares her story of survival from sexual assault, and through her bravery gives strength to others. Her words have an extraordinary power and we hope you find them as inspirational as we did.
“You don’t know what you want.” It’s a very simple sentence composed of six clear and concise words. A simple sentence that was said to me as I was sexually assaulted by someone I thought I could trust.
Every girl hears the statistics. ‘One in five girls will be sexually assaulted during college.’ However, that is all they are: statistics. They are cold numbers that don’t show the faces or stories of those that have to deal with the ongoing trauma, the violation of not only their bodies but their minds.
My mental state crumbled around me. A day after the assault, I tried to establish a semblance of normalcy and hang out with some friends. They began to gossip about men they found attractive. Every time I tried to join the conversation, I was barred by my memory. He haunted my thoughts and turned everything into a reminder of my assault. After I left my friends, I cried alone in my car for hours afterwards.
He made me hate my body. Of course, I did not have a perfect relationship with my body before the assault, but after it I could not look at myself without feeling his hands or seeing myself through his eyes. My self-esteem plummeted, my social life became non-existent, and all I wanted was to get the image of his eyes out of my head. I wanted to somehow shed my skin and in the process of doing so, shed my memories of that day.
However, the worst part of the whole situation was my outlook on the experience. I found myself telling myself that I was lucky he did not rape me.
I called my sexual assault lucky.
Under no circumstances should the words ‘sexual assault’ and ‘lucky’ be used in the same sentence. Under no circumstances should I be grateful that I was sexually assaulted, only because there was a very real possibility I could have been raped.
One of the biggest struggles is being silent on the issue. How do you bring up the topic with your loved ones? How do you tell them how he made you loathe yourself? How do you explain to your parents, who have viewed you in a golden light, that you feel dirty and damaged? Yet at the same time there is a yearning to scream your secret for the world to hear. To make them listen to you. To try and make them understand.
Label is my scream.
This is my cry to a world that likes to bury sexual assault victims and their stories. A world that made me afraid to tell my story because I did not want to be labeled a victim. A world that made me feel like my emotions and mental issues did not have validity.
The one thing that I did not factor into my vocalization of my assault would be the tremendous outpouring of similar assaults. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers have opened up about their own assaults. They too seek to make the world understand, to make the world recognize this problem. They put faces and stories to match the statistic we hear about in hope that change will be enacted: that someone will finally listen and realize their strength, worth, and individuality.
It has been almost a year, and I have come to terms with my sexual assault. It is something that happened to me, but it is also something that I have overcome. I am tired of being silent on this issue. By discussing it, I am combating it. By acknowledging it, I am acknowledging that it cannot control my life.
Label allows me to share my story. It allows me to show my confidence in my body that is not perfect, but neither is it dirty. Label gives people like me, people fighting to keep their past from labeling them, the opportunity to show their uniqueness and strength. It focuses not only on body positivity but mental and emotional positivity as well. Finally, I am able to bring my story to light in hope that it will help others.
Label has helped me see that my sexual assault does not define me. Because I refuse to give it that power.