Finding Bodily Freedom After Sexual Assault

After being sexually assaulted when I was 24, I completely lost my sense of bodily autonomy. My body—and my relationship to it—felt like it was a whole new territory; the land on which had been ransacked and destroyed. I knew it was up to me to cultivate this new land and figure out how to grow life back onto it again. It was up to me to  reclaim my power. I was naïve in the sense that my only understanding of sexual trauma was from episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. I had also been there to hold space for people I knew who were survivors of sexual violence, but I never thought about what I would do if I were sexually assaulted, let alone by someone who did not use contraception during the assault.

While navigating the trauma of my own assault and my resulting PTSD diagnosis, I became increasingly aware of the countless possible effects of sexual violence. On the days I wanted to submerge myself in a bottle of wine or couldn’t find the strength to peel myself from my bed sheets, I thought about how, if anything, I was lucky I had not conceived a child who I knew if I carried to full term I would resent or that I had not contracted an STI from my rapist who already had induced so much emotional turmoil.

I was hyper aware of the possibility that I could be raped again. For that reason, I thought of all the ways I might find some sort of bodily autonomy. I never again wanted to have to worry about possibly being impregnated by someone who raped me.  I needed some form of control over my body in case it ever did happen again. Because of that I made the informed decision to get an IUD. With a form of birth control implanted in my body, I knew I would never have to have to rely on anyone else, ever again, for contraception.

After discussing it with my gynecologist, I got an IUD in October of 2017. The fact that the IUD is 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy was a comfort to me. During that time, I also made the decision that, after two years of abstaining from dating or any kind of sexual interactions after the assault, I was ready to dive back into dating. Having an IUD in addition to using condoms gave me the sense I had armor to protect me in situations where I couldn’t control everything. Despite all the ways I navigated keeping myself safe in  seemingly new territory, o I felt relief. In addition to the tools I had created in therapy, I also created boundaries for myself—like never going to a date’s house and always letting someone know where I was.I also had my IUD, which helped me gain a sense of control over my body.

I didn’t have to worry about my primary source of birth control being taken away from me. I didn’t have to be concerned about the IUD being sabotaged in some way or a partner refusing to use it, like I would have if I were just relying on condoms or oral contraceptives. For now, my IUD is the most logical choice for my reproductive freedom and I am grateful to have one. Although at times there is the gnawing, constant fear of being sexually assaulted again, I know that whatever may happen, I control my primary source of birth control.

Featured image by Tabata Roja

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