My name is Taylor Krizmanich and I graduated from McGill University in May of 2019. While I started my academic journey studying business, I quickly realized that my passion for writing and reading needed to be incorporated in my degree. Four years later I completed a major in English Literature, a minor in Communications Studies and a minor in Gender, Sexuality, Feminism and Social Justice Studies. After graduating from McGill I moved back to Toronto where I was introduced to Andrea Constand, the Executive Director and current President of Hope Healing and Transformation (HHT).
A few months back. Andrea reached out to me and shared her idea of starting a blog for HHT. She has given me the opportunity, through this blog, to start a conversation and safe space for survivors to share their stories and begin to talk about the process of healing and rediscovering one’s sexuality after sexual assault. Before you read any further, I want to warn you that this content can be triggering for some and deals with sensitive topics.
The impact sexual assault has on a survivor’s intimate life and self-confidence varies. Avoiding sex and intimate relations, hiding behind baggie clothing and running away from potentially triggering social situations are common ways we, as survivors, cope with the mental and physical aftermath of sexual assault. How, then, do we confront the voice in our heads that constantly tells us we are damaged and dirty? How can we learn to love ourselves again and eventually trust that love with someone else?
One survivor, Delaney, was brave enough to share with us how she has reclaimed her sexuality and begun to heal after being sexually assaulted.
“My story began in 2011. I was sexually assaulted in my own bed when I was unconscious after being drugged by two boys who went to my high school. I had turned 16 a few weeks prior and was just beginning to explore and understand my own sexuality as well as the potential for a relationship with someone else.”
“It took me years to understand that wearing baggy clothes and not sleeping in my bed for months after the sexual assault was a way of coping and trying to hide my damaged body. The guilt and shame only multiplied after I was told it was my fault for being raped; if I had been wearing different clothes it would not have happened.”
“After closing the door on any potential relationships, intimacy or sexual experiences I started seeing a therapist who changed my entire mindset. She explained to me that I hid myself physically, mentally and emotionally in order to avoid any potential triggering memories that could arise.”
“My therapist gave me two tasks she thought would help me conquer my fears: to get a massage and complete a boudoir photo-shoot. I got the massage right away, but it took me nearly a year to book the boudoir shoot. I never realized that by doing two rather ordinary experiences, my confidence would grow to a point that would inhibit my perpetrators power over my own sexuality.”
Delaney took an active role in her sexual recovery and, in the process, noted how much more powerful and confident she became. For Delaney the healing journey started with a massage and further grew after she completed a boudoir photo shoot. For other survivors this journey will look different. Wearing a piece of clothing that is triggering may be the start, or learning to trust someone enough to share your experience with them.
Our goal at HHT is to inspire and empower survivors to share their own stories of healing after sexual assault and spark conversations pertaining to this. Below is a photograph from the boudoir photo-shoot, which helped Delaney rediscover the intimate parts of herself after surviving sexual assault: