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The Flame Within

Updated: May 22, 2023

Content Warning: This article will discuss a specific person’s experiences

with sexual assault and PTSD as a result. Please read with care.

Woman with a pearled veil

Rape. No one really grasps this until it happens to you. There is no true, correct way to respond when it happens to you.

The whirlwind of emotions

The numbness

The emptiness

I remember waking up the morning after. Trying to comprehend what happened. I was 19 years old. My body is my home, and it was violated, robbed, and taken from me.

Rape. No one really grasps this until it happens to you. There is no true, correct way to respond when it happens to you.

I was always a soft, feminine girl. A polite girl. A nice girl. I remember pleading and begging him to stop as he kissed my neck. He was going to get what he wanted even if he needed to take it from me. I knew what was next. It wouldn’t be long. I closed my eyes while he raped me raw. I gripped the sheets to help me fight through the pain happening in me. The smell of rape smothered the room. Shame took over my body. I felt my flame within slowly dim.

I turned on the shower and sat down in the tub, watching the throw-up and sticky alcohol residue wash away. I start seeing the water turn red as I rub the dried blood from my groin area. I sat in that tub for hours, trying to make sense of last night. Nothing can prepare you for this. There is nothing that the resources or guides can tell you are the right ways to feel. This vivid memory stays ingrained in my head.

My body felt unfamiliar. A part of me left that night. I sometimes search for it to this day. I tend to trace my fingers against my body to see if I am all here. I thought healing would go accordingly; seek therapy, find a support network of friends, find hobbies to consume myself with, and I should come out of this stronger with some profound new talent.

Woman with purple tulle over her face

Naturally, I put high expectations on myself. Feeling weak and defeated is something I could not afford. I had a mask on and had a hard time saying the word rape in my therapy session. I refused to speak it into existence. I try running away from all the little things that remind me of how happy and alive I used to be.

I quickly realized not everyone deserves to hear my story, be around my energy, or get to connect with my deepest thoughts.

Even with weekly therapy and taking on new hobbies, my mind was still racing. My body was still in flight or fight mode.

He broke me in a way I never knew I could break. I realized I am not the same anymore. I believed I would never be able to take back what he stole. He didn’t just take my innocence. He robbed me of my mind, my body, my soul. I was eating but not tasting. Sleeping for 10 – 12 hours a day but exhausted. In a room full of people I love, and yet, the emptiness consumes me. I wanted to blend in and be forgotten.

I lived by watching other people’s lives happen and became the secondary character in my own story. Some days were better than others, and I felt life was inching forward. But other days would consume my whole being. I would fall off my therapy or hobbies from time to time

and become withdrawn from the world around me just so I can try and stop the everyday motions.

I craved to feel alive. To feel free. To feel soft again.

There was no “ah-ha” moment where I felt I was healed. But, there were trials and tribulations I endured that testify to my resilience. I had the strength within me to heal myself when I let myself be vulnerable. It allowed me to learn I can only live for myself. To find a life I loved and

one I was proud of. Practicing authenticity and seeking genuine conversation and human connections gives me the energy to further find depth in myself.

I understand my journey is ongoing, unique, and best done by me. As I am writing this I am uneasy and numb all over again. I find that it helps me learn and feel the different parts of me I have yet to discover. I push myself to share my story in hopes to guide my light to yours.

Woman in a green dress and white eyeliner

I am allowed to take up space. I strive to be outspoken, yet graceful with my words. I intertwine my boldness with my compassion and femininity. I take moments every day to appreciate myself and the beauty I hold. My body for how it has carried me my entire life. My heart holds so many emotions and empathy for those around me. My mind; the complexity and intelligence it holds and the ability it has to help you heal. And lastly, my soul possesses a flame within me, which never blew out.

Looking at where I am now, I can’t always be articulate about how I feel. I still have a hard time painting, singing, and being kind to myself. I wish I could explain my feelings now that it feels like a distant memory. Healing is so much more than therapy and long walks on the beach. It is when I feel my sadness come and then go. It is when I feel the sun on my skin and remember I am still here. It is feeling the worst and best parts in you.


Written by Sana Ahmad photographed by Danielle Barry of Creative Frictions. Set assistance from Mackensie Neumann-Affolder and Sarah Oliver.

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