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When survivors dig up the past in order to lay down a foundation for a happier future, we often face heightened symptoms like hypervigilance, intrusive images and thoughts, flashbacks, and avoidance behaviors, and I was no exception.

It took years of hard conversations, agonizing counseling sessions, and difficult decisions to identify my issues, lessen reactions, and leave unhealthy coping behaviors behind, but every step of that journey was worth it to be where I am today.

Kristen Paruginog, founder of Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, a nonprofit that works to provide help and healing to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, also stresses the importance of focusing on yourself and your healing after surviving sexual violence.I lived in a state of constantly heightened vigilance, which made gentle, rational arguments feel like they approximated abuse.I thought I wasn’t worth hearing, so I became shut down, closed off, and difficult to talk to.After my abuse, even a small, affectionate touch, like a hug, could bring back memories of violence.And given the mental manipulation I had experienced, even simple, normal requests felt like calculating control.We continue to identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with our award-winning journalism.If you had asked me a few years ago if I thought I could ever be in a healthy relationship, I would have politely said no and then excused myself from the conversation to go cry in the bathroom.For instance, if he asked me to text him when I got safely to a friend’s house after driving late at night, I got suspicious and upset, doubting his intentions, assuming this was a way to control me instead of a sincere gesture of concern for my well-being.The smallest quarrels felt like they were about to escalate to violence, and I would shy away from touch when we were having a disagreement.This never made a grain of sense to me until I experienced sexual abuse as well.Assault does not constrain itself to the realm of sexuality—it’s pervasive. These issues became more and more present as my relationship with my now-husband, Brian, became more serious and accelerated toward marriage.