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“How do you own yourself again after being assaulted”, asks Vanessa Conway, a victim of abuse. This is her story with some steps she has found useful in getting over a distressing event.

Vanessa: It’s not just about the mind, the body needs to heal too.

It’ s 6am. I am walking to my client’s. It’s November so quite dark and the street doesn’t have the best lightning. I’m used to it though, it’s been over a year now that I’ve been going to see this client. There is a park next door with funny dogs and runners. Sometimes you only see the light around the neck of the dogs. But this morning nothing. No runners, no dogs, not even a bird.  It’s quiet. I enjoy the silence as for once I don’t have my earphones.

I’m just slowing down when I feel a shadow behind me. My body tenses but my Mind says, “Don’t worry, nothing can happen here.” So, I ignore. And suddenly a hand grabs my ass, trying to go further. I jump out of the way, turn to him and scream. For whatever reason I just focus on his teeth, so bright. It takes only few seconds for him to run away before I see others details, and for me to run for my life to my client’s. It’s not far.

I press the bell several times, completely panicking, ringing and knocking at the same time… As my client opens the door, I rush into her house, checking behind me. Then I cry, shaking uncontrollably, unable to explain anything to my client. She starts to panic too. She keeps her hands on me though, reassuring me that I’m ok now. I take a deep breath. I explain what happened. And she tells me, “You need to tell the police.”

And you know what my first reaction is? “What are they going to do? They won’t catch him. No, it’s nothing after all, he just grabbed my ass.” I even feel guilty and ashamed.

Fortunately, she pushes me to go on their website to report the “incident”. I start to calm down a bit. The other tip she gives me is to play a video game. Sounds weird but she explains that playing a video game just for 10 min after trauma distracts the brain from retaining the attack. I do feel better but there’s something missing. My body is still in shock. It’s tensed and hurt. Hurt physically. Hurt because he touched me without permission. Hurt also because I didn’t trust my body when it warned me. So, I put some happy music on. We dance. The two of us. And dance. And dance. Until we couldn’t anymore. Now my body feels better, it feels safe again. 

That was the first time I got assaulted in London but not the first time in my life, unfortunately. But this time, I found support and closure. Here’s how, the basics. You will need to adapt these steps to your own circumstances:

  1. TALK to someone you trust

  Expressing yourself right after it happens in a safe environment will create a space for your body and your mind to release the pressure of the attack. Once you go back to normal, your mind or ego will probably tell you that whatever happened was nothing, or even that it was your fault. Please don’t listen to it, it’s wrong! It is something that shouldn’t happen to anyone, so call it by its name, assault, not just inappropriate behaviour, assault. That’s why you need to talk to someone who will tell you and even push you to go to the police

  • REPORT to the police

  Yes, they might do nothing. Yes, they might even say they can’t do anything for you. Yes, they might just shrug their shoulders or roll their eyes or ask questions like “What were you wearing?” “What were you doing at this time?” That’s why reporting on their website is better. You report the case without talking to them and you have the choice to meet them or not. Personally, I waited a few days. They came to my home asking questions about the attacker. They couldn’t do much, but it helped to close the case knowing I have done everything I could.

  • DISTRACT your brain

Being on a screen as we all know will distract our brain. But in case of trauma, playing a video game (for me it was candy crush) will reduce the intensity of the event. It’s like watching a movie. You are not the actor but merely a spectator. Have a look further on this special study  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190108095114.htm

  • MOVE your body

That’s a part I think that’s most ignored still. Just because you do something for your mind doesn’t mind your body will follow, especially when it was the main target. After trauma, you need to re-appropriate your body, reset the boundaries, make it yours again, not from a logical point of view but from your soul. For that, movement is the best. For me, it was dancing. For you it might be swimming, running, anything big and physical that requires the muscles, the heart, the breath to work together, to be powerful together. Powerful to create space for love, to shake it off not to get tougher.

Doing these 4 steps helped me to walk back again in the same street at the same time a few days after.

Now it was a one-off for me. You might live (or survive) a similar situation repeatedly. Re-owning yourself will take the same path with this first essential step: acknowledge it. To you. To someone else. To the authority concerned.

Follow what your body says, not your mind or reason.

You may also enjoy reading about the Breathe Cafe, a new idea launched to help those with mental health issues.

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