Dear Survivor… from Grace French

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, The Army of Survivors is publishing a series of open letters to athlete survivors from our board members. This is the first letter in the series.

Dear Survivor,

There will be bad days, and there will be days that you feel like a victim instead of a survivor; but hold on, because it does get better. Hold on because tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, will be brighter. Let go and surrender yourself to the feelings of these waves. The bad days will end. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It does not make you weak to need someone else, it makes you stronger. It’s okay to ask for help preparing meals, going grocery shopping, taking care of your home, and finding the mental health professionals that you need. It’s okay to call someone at midnight after a nightmare, or a trigger, to help calm you. Find those you trust to catch you when you feel like you’re slipping under the waves.

You are not here to please anyone. You are worthy and deserving of putting yourself first. If that means cutting people out, do it. It is not selfish to protect your energy, and your light. When you protect yourself, your light can grow stronger and brighter than you ever imagined; it can light the way for someone else.

You were not put on this earth to make others’ lives convenient. You don’t owe anyone anything. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, your time, or your light. If you get overwhelmed — stop. Because you can, and because it’s within your power to do so. 

Remember “no” is not a bad word, and “no” is a complete sentence. Make it your friend, so that you can use it forcefully and positively to empower yourself to take control of your life. It can help you establish healthy boundaries with the ones you love.

Forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for how you responded, for your reactions that keep coming back to haunt you, for the way you lashed out at others. Know that it’s not your fault. The violence was not because of anything that you did, or wore, or said. Let those things go as they come. Look forward, because that is what matters now. 

Protect your light and weather the waves because your voice is louder, stronger, and bigger than you know. What you say and what you do will affect others. You will be surprised by who is watching your journey, so use your voice responsibly, but don’t be afraid of it. You have the power to move mountains, to tame the ocean, and to change the world for the better. 

You are loved, you are strong, you are courageous.

Grace French