Coping With Sexual Assault

Shown+above+is+The+Way+I+Used+to+Be+by+Amber+Smith%2C+a+novel+about+how+the+side-effects+of+sexual+assault+can+sometimes+not+be+seen+at+all.+

Milla Jans

Shown above is The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith, a novel about how the side-effects of sexual assault can sometimes not be seen at all.

Milla Jans, Photojournalist

In the United States, an estimated number of 734,630 people have been sexually assaulted as of the year 2022 (NSVRC 6). Everyone is affected by the threat of sexual assault, but in many cases, the victim is a woman (RAINN 2). At times, people cannot recognize when or if they are being taken advantage of, and this results in some instances of victims not reporting the sexual assault.

Other occasions in which a victim may choose to stay silent is when the assaulter issues a death threat or convinces the victim that no one will believe their accusations. Manipulation is a strong front for an assaulter, who may attempt to emotionally weaken the chosen victim over a period of time or in the hours before committing the assault.

The assaulter’s tactics include using the victim’s fragilities against them, guilt-tripping, threatening, and lying. Everyone should be aware of these strategies in order to not become one of the thousands that are victimized. A victim is never the one at fault for being sexually assaulted, no matter how many times someone may say it is.

Sadly, a substantial amount of sexual assault cases involve victims who are children or teenagers. Children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to an assaulter’s tactics, and thus, are the most taken advantage of. Situations such as these can be avoided by making sure one is not in a dangerous situation and staying around trusted parents and peers.

In The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith, the author writes about a girl named Eden who was raped by a close family friend. The story is written from Eden’s perspective throughout her four years of high school. During this time, she suffers from trauma and the looming secret that haunts her to no end.

Trauma can show up in many forms, and the author includes one of becoming distant, feeling the need to get away, and slowly losing oneself to what seems like a lifetime of pain. Eventually, Eden gains the courage to tell an old friend about her truth and acquires the love she deserves. Informing the police about an assaulter can ensure that they do not harm any others.

…addressing issues, getting help during difficult times, finding support through healthy, positive channels is what’s going to make the difference between deep or long term suffering that can lead to permanent emotional scars…”

— Melinda Heim

Many instances of reported sexual assault become ignored by people in the position of power or are required to be covered up. Situations such as these put the victim in a difficult place since they must live with the knowledge that the assaulter was not held accountable for the assault. Letting an assaulter get away with an act of rape or attempted rape tells the culprit that they can repeat their crime without punishment. 

While it may seem impossible to talk to someone about being a victim or seem that the story is unbelievable, there is always someone out there that will listen. Many victims do not come forward about their circumstances, but doing so brings in a number of supportive resources such as mental health services, legal services, and encouraging conversations.

Melinda Heim (S), the wellness specialist at Yorba Linda High School, affirms that “…addressing issues, getting help during difficult times, finding support through healthy, positive channels is what’s going to make the difference between deep or long term suffering that can lead to permanent emotional scars…”

Letting friends and family know about the offense may not keep the flashbacks at bay or destroy the anxiety, but over time the scar will eventually fade. No one should ever be compelled to endure a burdensome load on their own. Pressure is at all times easier to carry with someone there to lessen the weight.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673