After the Assault: What I Now Know About Repressed Trauma

The small park down the road from my childhood house: buddies and I spent many evenings there as youngsters. We’d watch films on one another’s MP3 gamers and eat from a bag of microwave popcorn whereas owls hooted from the timber above.

Twigs flippantly poked in opposition to our backs. Fallen leaves graced pores and skin. Crickets hummed within the darkness. The celebs shone shiny by the branches of the redwoods.

Eight years later at a park in Montevideo, Uruguay, darkness once more surrounded me. Leaves and twigs as soon as extra made contact with my pores and skin. This time, although, I couldn’t hear the crickets or discover the celebs. Particulars of nature have been dimmed out, changed by the interior clamor of a quickly beating coronary heart and shock flooding by me.

By day, Parque Rodo bustled with life. Later that yr I might experience paddle boats there with my girlfriend of the time. I might feed crumbles of tortas fritas to the geese alongside my Uruguayan housemate, whereas he shared with me his dream to grow to be a dancer in New York Metropolis. I might do yoga on the grass with fellow English trainer buddies. It might grow to be a spot of optimistic recollections.

That evening, although, it was something however.


One week earlier, I’d moved to Montevideo to show English and grow to be fluent in Spanish.

My first week handed by in a whir of exploratory exercise. I traversed cobblestone streets previous colourful homes resembling Turkish delights; previous pick-up soccer video games in the course of some roads; previous youngsters strolling massive teams of various species of canine.

I realized Spanish tongue-twisters from native Uruguayans whereas ingesting mate on the shores of the Rio de la Plata. I sand-boarded for the primary time and have become accustomed to answering the query “De donde sos?” (“The place are you from?”) in almost each taxi I took and confiteria (pastry store) I set foot in.

Now that it was the weekend, I wished to expertise the LGBTQ+ evening life (which I’d heard optimistic issues about). Situated on the periphery of the expansive Parque Rodo, Il Tempo was certainly one of Montevideo’s three homosexual golf equipment, catering principally to lesbians.

I hadn’t eaten dinner but, so my plan earlier than heading in was to seize a chivito sandwich (certainly one of Uruguay’s staple meals). Chiviterias abounded throughout Montevideo, current on almost each nook, so I imagined I wouldn’t should stroll far to seek out one.

After taxi-ing from my hostel, I requested the bouncer if he might direct me to the closest chiviteria. Pointing down the road, he instructed me to stroll for half a block. I’d then make a proper and proceed down 21de septiembre till reaching Bulevar Normal Artigas.

” Y alli encontrarás una” (“And there you will discover one”), he stated.

Just a few blocks didn’t sound like loads, so off I went.

I walked for what felt like some time, with out crossing paths with every other pedestrians.

Isnt this purported to be a serious avenue? I puzzled. Additionally, shouldn’t there be some streetlamps?

It was then that one other pedestrian—a younger man sporting a backward baseball cap—got here into view.

He was strolling briskly towards me from the wrong way. Just about the minute I noticed him, I knew my night wouldn’t be taking part in out as I’d envisioned. A chivito was now not on the desk. I wouldn’t be dancing with a cute Spanish-speaking lesbian at Il Tempo.

“Adonde vas?” (“The place are you going?”) the person requested me as he bought nearer. Stress instantly took maintain of my physique, which I did my greatest to cover whereas shortly responding that I used to be on my method to a chivito spot.

Yo sé donde comprar un chivito” (“I do know the place to get a chivito”), he stated, gesturing towards the park. “Te muestro” (“Ill present you”).

My coronary heart hammered, however I once more tried to obscure any indicators of worry. Perhaps if I exuded solely niceness and naivety, it could purchase me extra time—as a result of the grim fact (that there was nowhere inside eyesight to run to) was shortly changing into obvious. The foggy pull of disassociation got here for me, wrapping its wispy arms round my coronary heart and thoughts.

Much like how Laurie Halse Anderson wrote in Shout: “The exits have been blocked, so that you properly fled your pores and skin while you smelled his intent.”

I selected to not run—as a result of who knew how lengthy it could be earlier than I discovered a extra populated street, or perhaps a passing automobile? And the way far might I flee earlier than the person caught up? He’d possible grow to be offended and violent if and when he did. Additionally, flip-flops make for fairly dismal trainers…

Perhaps if I saved strolling with him, we’d cross paths with one other particular person, went my reasoning on the time. Nobody else was current on that dimly lit avenue, however possibly within the park somebody can be—a pair taking a late-night stroll, or a cluster of youngsters chopping by on their method to the following bar; or somebody, anybody who might step in and grow to be a buffer. Parque Rodo’s web site had, in any case, talked about that many younger folks grasp on the market at evening.


I don’t keep in mind what the person and I talked about as we walked. I do keep in mind a half-eaten chivito mendacity atop a trash can off to the facet of the trail; the sound of my flip-flops crunching in opposition to the gravel; that we continued to be the one pedestrians on our path; and that after a minute or two, the person introduced, “Weve nearly made it to the chivito place.” I nodded in response, my urge for food now fully nonexistent.

A part of me nonetheless hoped I might purchase time. That I might faux I didn’t know what was about to occur, for lengthy sufficient so that somebody, or one thing, might intervene—in order that possibly it wouldn’t.

Nothing and nobody did although. When the person lastly grabbed me and pushed me in opposition to a tree, my feigned composure broke. Noticing the shift, he used each his palms to cowl my mouth whereas whispering that he would kill me if I raised my voice (“Te mataré,” he repeated thrice in a low hiss).

Over these subsequent couple of minutes, I saved attempting to carry eye contact in try to get by to his humanity. I desperately and naively hoped that at any second he would awaken to what he was doing and really feel ashamed sufficient to cease.

He didn’t although.

When he tried to take my shorts off, a disorienting sequence of imagined future eventualities swiped by my thoughts like sinister serpants.

They confirmed me coping with an STD.

Taking a being pregnant take a look at.

Getting an abortion.

Doing all of these items by myself in a rustic 6,000 miles from house and from everybody who knew me.

My worry of these imagined outcomes pushed me to talk up.

”You don’t need to go down there,” I warned, feigning concern for his well-being.

He reached for my shorts anyhow.

And so I attempted once more, this time whereas wanting him within the eye. Although I wouldn’t know the Spanish phrase for STD till years later when taking a medical interpreter certification course, I did have others at my disposal. Sufficient to elucidate that I’d as soon as had “a foul expertise” that left me with algo contagioso (one thing contagious).

If this man cared in any respect about his well being, he’d cease what he was doing, I defined.

Perhaps I used to be imagining it, however I believed I noticed the slightest little bit of uncertainty start to share house with the emptiness in his eyes.

Whether or not or not he believed me, he stopped reaching down and settled on a non-penetrative compromise.

Afterwards he snatched up my shorts and emptied their pockets of the crumpled pesos inside them (the equal of about fifty U.S. {dollars}). Then after tossing them into a close-by bush, he ran off into the evening.


As I stood up a dizziness overtook me, my soul quavering and disoriented in its return from the air above to again inside my pores and skin.

Nonetheless shaking, I discovered my method to the closest lighted path, strolling shortly till I reached Il Tempo—the membership I’d began at.

I requested the bouncer if I might use the lavatory.

As soon as inside I washed my mouth with cleaning soap—one time, two occasions, 5 then six. No variety of occasions felt like sufficient.

After returning to my hostel, I fell asleep, telling not a single soul. I wouldn’t for one more six months.


A part of it was that I didn’t need to hassle anybody. What had occurred was heavy, however it was over now. I used to be high-quality—and what was there to say about it? Telling folks, this quickly into the beginning of my yr overseas, would simply be needlessly burdening them. To not point out disrupting the momentum of what I’d wished to be a chapter of development and new beginnings.

One other side of it was that I feared the questions folks would possibly ask, even when simply in their very own heads:

Why have been you strolling by yourself at evening? Why didnt you are taking a taxi? Why have been you sporting shorts? Why didnt you run? Scream? Why did you comply with him into the park? Why werent you carrying mace? Why didnt you…?

I too had requested myself these questions. And I had solutions to them.

I used to be strolling by myself as a result of Id simply moved right here and didnt know anybody; I didnt take a taxi as a result of I believed the stroll can be fast, and taking one each time it’s essential stroll even only a block or two will get costly; I wore shorts as a result of it was a sizzling summer season evening; I adopted him into the park for the explanations outlined in my thought course of above, and maybe as a result of worry was clouding and constricting my rational considering.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t shake free from the disgrace.

The folks I confessed to months later turned out to be splendidly supportive. Trying again, I can see that although I’d fearful about them judging me, I used to be the one judging myself—then projecting that self-judgment onto them.

Nonetheless, although my help group didn’t, I used to be additionally conscious that society does lean towards inserting accountability on victims—much more so within the years earlier than the Me Too motion. Usually, even now, the knee-jerk response is to query victims.

After figuring out that one of the best ways ahead was to place the incident behind me, I then locked it away right into a psychological casket and commenced the burial course of. I lined over it with mate and dulce-de-leche; with invigorating swims by the Rio de la Plata; with assembly energetic souls within the months that adopted.

Although unaddressed, a minimum of safely buried the reminiscence couldn’t hurt me. Or so went my considering on the time.


Following the assault, I started my educating job on the English academy. I assimilated to Uruguayan tradition as greatest as I might, all whereas offering optimistic updates to family and friends again house.

The pushed-down trauma manifested in different methods although—in stress, despair, and close to fixed irritation. As Tara Brach put it, “The ache and worry don’t go away. Moderately, they lurk within the background and now and again immediately take over.”

I drank unhealthy quantities of alcohol (not simply in teams, but in addition when alone). Many issues overwhelmed me. Numerous triggers appeared to set me off.

The Uruguayan lady I’d been relationship even stated to me as soon as, “Te enojas por todo” (“You get irritated by every part”). I ended up getting banned from that lesbian membership I’d gone to the evening of the assault, after arguing with the bouncer one evening.

Nightmares plagued me. I’d realized in my faculty psych class that one of many features of sleep is to flee from predators. I puzzled why, then, I got here nose to nose with my predator each evening in my goals.


I’d had different traumatic experiences previous to this one—a lot of which I’d stuffed away.

The ache pile-up will degree off, if solely you simply cease taking a look at it, I typically tried to inform myself.

It didn’t degree off although. I’d flown right down to Uruguay with the pile nonetheless smoldering, my acutely aware thoughts numbed to the fumes (having been educated to overlook they have been there). Following the assault, the pile grew—and continued to develop properly into my return to the U.S.

When we keep away from processing, the traumas kind a backlog in our hearts and minds, queuing as much as be felt ultimately. Quite a few research have discovered avoidance to be “essentially the most vital issue that creates, prolongs, and intensifies trauma-reaction or PTSD signs.”

It was solely once I started inching nearer towards my ache that I started to slowly heal the elements I’d stuffed down for thus lengthy.

Therapeutic occurred once I started opening as much as folks. It occurred in remedy and thru getting a deal with on my ingesting. It occurred when restructuring my community, prioritizing the friendships that have been higher for my soul, whereas trimming those that had served extra of a distracting and numbing function.

It occurred in redirecting care to my relationship with myself—spending extra mild one-on-one time together with her, out in nature or in a quiet room.

Each time I run barefoot on a seashore, my coronary heart heals somewhat.

Each time I depart an interplay (with both a human or the planet) with my soul purring like a happy cat, my soul inches nearer towards realignment.

I practiced turning towards my more true self in all these methods—till ultimately, as phrased fantastically by Carmen Maria Machado, “Time and house, creatures of infinite girth and tenderness, [had] stepped between the 2 of [the traumatic incident and me], and [were] retaining [me] secure as they have been as soon as unable to.”

Although I would like this for everybody who’s survived an assault, or every other critical trauma, it’s solely inside judgment-free house that true therapeutic is feasible. This implies letting go of self-judgment, and surrounding your self with individuals who can validate you.

Could the thought be wiped from our collective consciousness: that the selection to put on a specific merchandise of clothes, or to devour a couple of drinks, or to hunt out a snack late at evening—staple items males can do with out fearing for his or her security—are liable for what occurred to survivors.

Could the prevailing understanding grow to be that what’s accountable—100%—is an individual’s choice to assault. Full cease.

Could all of these items grow to be true—as a result of no survivor ought to should expertise disgrace alongside the ache that’s already so tough to bear by itself. As a result of each survivor deserves an area to heal and reclaim what was taken from them: the ineffable sense of emotional security that needs to be our birthright. We deserve a viscerally felt “you’re okay” coursing by our veins. We should really feel fully at house inside our pores and skin.

Could we arrive there some day.

About Eleni Stephanides

A queer bilingual author, Eleni was born and raised within the Bay Space. She has been writing since elementary faculty, the place she handed out her tales and magazines to her classmates. Her work has been printed in The Mighty, Thought Catalogue, Elephant Journal, and Uncomfortable Revolution. You possibly can comply with her on IG eleni_steph_writer and skim tales from her time as a rideshare driver at

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The publish After the Assault: What I Now Know About Repressed Trauma appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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