Often when we have been the victim of sexual assault or relationship abuse we may blame ourselves. It is very normal to think of ways in which we could have made the assault or abuse stop or never even started—if only we had behaved differently. The truth is that no matter how we behaved or who we chose to connect with, victims do not cause assault or abuse. Those who perpetrate verbal or physical violence are to blame, not the ones they victimize. Being victimized by a stranger, someone you know—or even someone you love—happens more frequently than we believe. It may be that as many as 1 in 4 college student relationships include abuse at some time during their relationship. And, the same proportion of college women will experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.
Everyone is different and many of us handle our victimization in ways that others may not understand. Media portrays victims as women openly expressing hurt, shame and fear. While, in fact, that may be an expression by many victims, remember that many others may:
- not express much emotion in public,
- feel numb and emotionally shut-down, or
- suppress unpleasant feelings and try to go on with life as usual in order to feel in control again.
It may be some time before many victims will confide in another person about what happened to them. Often victims worry that telling someone else what happened to them will mean that they will be
- made to feel helpless, or
- coerced to take some action for which they are not ready.
If you have been a victim of relationship abuse or sexual assault know that the UNCW CARE office commits to treating you as a unique individual deserving of respect. You may have already felt controlled, overwhelmed or invaded. The help you choose to get from CARE is offered from a perspective of belief in your dignity, your ability to make your own choices with information and support, and in your need to proceed in your own timing when making changes.