The healing of community for survivors

Finding comfort in online spaces.

CW: sexual assault

For most of my life I have suffered in silence, left to wilt underneath the weight of life’s most unimaginable trauma. As a sexual assault survivor, I was taught by society and those close to me, to remain quiet about the trauma that almost killed me. I felt isolated within my own mind, trapped in a feeling that saying something would break me. But the hardest thing was not having my pain understood – a feeling that most survivors can share. 

When you utter your darkest trauma, the fear that lines your stomach is one of indescribable proportions. The quivering of your lips, the tears that numb your face, the hands that never seem to stop shaking.

I can still remember the day I told someone for the very first time. It took nine years. No one prepares you for the feeling of intense loneliness when you utter those words “I was sexually assaulted.” Looks of pity and attempts to discredit your story all add to the intense social isolation that your trauma immerses you in.

Unfortunately, this is a common experience. I just wanted someone who could tell me I was going to get through this and to say it wholeheartedly with truth. I needed someone who had walked this twisted path before, and to hold my hand throughout. But sadly, not all survivors are met with that type of warmth.  

This feeling endured for three years, until I stumbled upon an Instagram page named ‘Pieces of Marcelle.’

I remember flicking through her stories for the first time, in awe of her courage. She had found a way to regain the autonomy she had lost, through sharing  the worst days of her life with her audience. Marcelle’s openness to show her emotional scars allowed me to feel that what I went through was real, that I as a survivor was allowed to tell my story. 

In the months that followed, we began interacting. It started off with a few story replies, and messages of gratitude. These turned into in-depth conversations, supporting each other on our road to recovery, offering words of comfort that finally felt authentic. The kindness, empathy and warmth Marcelle extended to me, helped me conquer the silence that mired  my heart. It was through this compassion that I began to speak on what happened to me.

During the recent disclosures of sexual assaults that have plagued Australian politics, I felt compelled as a survivor to provide my perspective, to identify to the people in my life the lingering effects sexual assault had on me. For the first time I had the confidence to tell more than just close friends and loved ones, that I was a survivor of sexual assault, that my story mattered. And there was Marcelle cheering me on throughout it all. 

‘Pieces of Marcelle’ is not just a one-sided Instagram page. It is a safe space where the voices of all survivors are shared, and no one is silenced into remission. It is through this community, that part of the weight I carried in silence began to ease. 

While I will always carry the inconceivable trauma of sexual assault, and there are some details I will perhaps never be able to utter, I now have a space where I belong. A space where I can share those details if I am ever ready to. 

For any survivors out there, who feel alone in their grief, in their agony, I promise you, you are not alone. While there are days it seems like we are screaming just for someone to believe us, remember that there is a community waiting to help you heal. 

And if you are reading this Marcelle, thank you.