By Lauren Cutler
During a relationship, you create memories that involve a certain date, place, and outfit as well as memories relating to your sexual self and the violence you may have endured; some memories you hold positively, and others tear you down and make you question yourself. Once that relationship ends, it’s hard to see reminders that take you back to it. This is why it’s important to reclaim these things and create new memories.
Anniversaries, birthdays, milestones: all hard to get through without that person by your side anymore. But hard as it is to hear, that person isn’t around anymore, and their impact on your life and present being may be lasting, these dates are now insignificant. Thinking about what could’ve been on those days is hard enough but when that coincides with violence and abuse, you'll find it difficult to escape the inner turmoil. Don’t do it to yourself!
Also, don’t mark milestones. How long you have been without the other is now irrelevant. You are beautiful and alone, you needed to get out of a violent relationship, and you are so brave and relentless in doing so. But to mark days since this bravery will slowly make this act of empowerment feel less empowering.
At the end of the day, it’s another day. Days come and go, including the bad ones, so don’t let yourself dwell on the dates when you separated for reasons that extend, it just didn't work out; it’s not good for anyone.
Whether it’s the place where you first met, a restaurant that has the memory attached to it, or even where you work, it is important to get past the anxiety of going there and reclaim it for yourself. It is hard to detach a place and a memory, so take your time to do this, but eventually, you will have to, especially if it’s your workplace!
For some places, there was a reason you decided to go there before, whether you were introducing it to your significant other or deciding to try something new. The key thing is to make new memories there and override the soured memories that exist currently.
A place you experienced such violence and pain carries even more than a memory. Your body may physically react. Maybe it was a room where you were forced into doing something sexual you weren't comfortable with. Maybe it was in a bathroom where you felt sexually humiliated by your ex-partner because they broke your boundaries during a sexual experiment. Sometimes just the idea of that place can suddenly make you feel uneasy. If you can, you could choose to avoid these places.
We say ignorance is bliss and you should tackle your fears head-on. But you don't have to do this every day. Take your friends and go and rid of the violence associated with this place. Reclaim it and make it your place.
If you had a sexual relationship with your ex, then it is so important to reclaim your physical and sexual self. It is very difficult to do this after having been so intimate and trusting someone with your naked body, especially if they used this vulnerability and openness in a way to manipulate, abuse and take control over you.
Sexual violence in relationships can be masked by the other as for pleasure, for their own selfish desires, for their fulfillment and in this process, your body becomes an object to be violated. But, because you’re in a relationship with this person, it is almost impossible to separate violence and pain from the thought that this is all for our relationship.
Your body has been to hell and back, living through pain and sexual violence that too many of us endure. You had dark forces clung to your bare skin that have since left permanent dark shadows that some may not see with the naked eye. Your body has scars that you have tried to nourish. Now that you are free from this relationship you can start to love and care for your body and your sexual self without fear, without living another day of pain.
Now, it is time to work on you. It may sound clique, but please do take time to focus on yourself and what you like. Rediscover your sexual being and what you like during sex-not what they Iiked or what you liked as a couple. It can be hard to disassociate sexual feelings from a previous sexual partner, but your body is yours to enjoy, don’t let anyone take that away from you. You are your own; your sex and your sexual nature are yours too.
Sexual violence within relationships isn’t just physical either, it can be an emotional experience, so detaching yourself from that mental and emotional experience you had with that person is hard when moving on. You are the body and the person that has risen out of feelings of pain and shame.
The key thing to remember when you start reclaiming your emotional experience is to do it for yourself. This means doing things when you are ready and taking them at whatever pace is right for you. This could be speaking things aloud, putting on your favourite set of lingerie and looking in the mirror or wearing a baggy t-shirt without feeling like you should be wearing something tighter. Talk to friends and family about your plans, and get them involved if you want. That support network is invaluable.
You can do it
But, once you’ve decided to reclaim something, do it! Even if you were feeling confident at the time you decided, and less so when it comes to the actual 'reclaiming', just do it! Because you can. You are stronger than you know and reclaiming what is yours is giving the power back to you. You have managed to live through and come out of a violent relationship where your body and your sex were violated. We all need to know our strength and power, and it lies in our very existence.