Love and connection, after sexual violence – it doesn’t come easily.

I heard it best said in Netflix expose ‘Athlete A’ when a lead journalist commented, “He took away these girl’s ability to love and be loved.

I remember when I was at the height of my PTSD – and I couldn’t stand physical or emotional intimacy with anyone I cared about. I told the man I loved that I knew he hadn’t done anything to hurt me, but I couldn’t bare the touch of his hand on mine, or gentle hugs, or a kiss on the cheek. Each time he reached out, I recoiled and was flooded with memories that exploded in vivid detail and sensation – I relived the violations over, and over, and over again with every slight touch or hint of intimacy.

These days, with the help and support of a team of people both formally and informally, we’ve navigated our way through the confusing, painful, vulnerable, shameful ‘rollercoaster’ of recovery. It hasn’t been easy.

Love after Rape Blog Ashleigh Rae Survivor Advocate
Image by Joe Yates via Unsplash

There have been many times where we were both exhausted, burned out, and wanted to quit and walk away.

But we chose each other, time and time again.
Each time we came back a little stronger, and a little closer.

Eventually I could hold his hand, without the flashbacks.
Then, I could allow a brief hug.
With time, the hugs became longer, and more heartfelt.

We spent many nights together, just holding each other and letting the waves of emotion run through – tears, grief, anger, horror, helplessness.

Now, I hold his hand, kiss his cheek and each day we tell each other that we love each other. It’s taken gruelling hard work, with many long discussions, big questions, soul searching, and support from our friends, family and therapists.

But we’re here.
It’s possible to regain the capacity to love, and be loved in return. It’s not easy even now to allow love in for me, it’s a choice I make every day – and in honesty I sometimes forget that and fall into a slump.

But it’s possible.
You don’t have to go without love.
You ARE loved.
You ARE loveable.

What happened to you, doesn’t change those things.