Samantha's Story

"Music is how I talk about what happened. Every time I share my story in a performance, people come up to me after to say they’re survivors, too. It’s so healing to know you’re not alone."

Samantha Lynn is a musician, member of the LGBTQ community, and survivor of sexual violence.

Samantha was sexually assaulted after a friend’s party by someone she had known as an acquaintance for years.

“I didn’t know him very well, we were just in the same circle. But he knew I only dated women.”

Samantha told her mom and sister that she had been assaulted without sharing the specific details. They reacted in a supportive way and didn’t press her to share more than she was comfortable with.

“Telling someone what happened is never something that you’re fully prepared for. The hardest thing for me to do was to say it for the very first time.”

Samantha’s mom showed support by not overwhelming her with questions or suggestions and by bringing her food, even though she couldn’t eat. Samantha found her mom with pamphlets she’d gotten from the local sexual assault resource center on how parents can support a survivor.

“She went out and learned how to support me without depending on me to teach her how—that spoke volumes.”

Samantha reported the assault, but the perpetrator wasn’t arrested until six months later because he didn’t show up for an interview with detectives.

“Throughout the bail and sentencing hearings, I could tell he didn’t have a clue what he did wrong. But I can assure you, there were no mixed signals. I didn’t want what happened to me and he knew that.”

He was sentenced to seven months in jail but only served three and a half months of that sentence and was barred from entering the city in which Samantha lives.

“I wasn’t scared anymore, I was frustrated. The process took years and he was barely punished for what he did. This doesn’t satisfy my idea of what justice should be.”

Though the sentence was insufficient, Samantha is thankful to everyone involved in the process; she says that the legal advocates and attorneys were understanding and supportive and the judge took the time to listen and take her case seriously.

“He looked me in the eye and listened to every single word I said. He saw through the BS this other guy was saying. He did what he could with the limitations he was given.”

A huge part of Samantha’s healing has come from the emotional and practical support that her mom, sister, and brother-in-law have offered. Throughout the long hearings and sentencing process, Samantha’s brother-in-law drove her to every court date. Since the assault, they’ve had an understanding that she can call him, any time of the day or night if she’s having a panic attack, and he will stay on the phone with her. To this day, he doesn’t know any details of what happened to her and never asks.

 

“One time I had a panic attack when I was coming out of a studio recording session in Seattle and I called him. He was an hour drive away, but dropped what he was doing to pick me up and my sister stayed on the phone with me the whole time.”

When Samantha found a therapist who she felt comfortable with and fit her needs, but couldn’t afford the sessions, her sister stepped in to help.

“My sister—my rock—paid for every session. She didn’t limit how often I could go. She knew how much I needed it. I cannot thank her enough for funding me to see the therapist of my choice. My sister and her husband were there for me every step of the way.”

Samantha recognizes that for family and friends of survivors, it can be hard to balance what they may be feeling with a desire to support a loved one. Her advice is to be there, know that you can’t fix it, and seek out resources to learn how to care for yourself and the survivor in your life.

“I have been in dark places of PTSDdepression, and wanting to take my own life, and that is even when I have the most wonderful support system in the world. But I know a lot of people don’t have that, and I want them to know that they are not alone.”

Music has been an essential part of Samantha’s healing process. Her song, “Be Anyway” was the first song she wrote about what happened to her. After performing it publicly and being met with support, love, and connection with other survivors, she’s still performing it at shows years later.

“I knew I was hurting and had to get it out. While counseling was helpful, I needed more. I knew I needed to express it artistically.”

After the assault, Samantha developed an eating disorder, which she mentions in “Be Anyway.”

“Sometimes it was because I felt that I wasn’t worthy of eating or nourishment. Sometimes I forgot. Sometimes I was too nauseous over grief. And sometimes, I felt that it was the only thing in my life I could control.”

Though it’s difficult to be taken back to that moment in her life each time she performs certain songs, she finds tremendous healing in channeling the trauma she experienced into art.

“It’s hard for me to talk about what happened. But when I’m writing a song or creating music, it’s never forced—it just flows.”

Because the perpetrator was part of a shared friend group, she has struggled with losing one of her close friends who believed that the assault happened, but took the side of the perpetrator.

“This friend went to the extent of writing a ‘character witness’ statement for the perpetrator in court. That hurt—a lot.”

Samantha has experienced issues with physical intimacy since the assault. The thought of being touched by anyone was so painful that Samantha couldn’t hold hands or hug her family and friends for months, which made her feel even more isolated and alone.

When she tried to start dating again a year after the assault, she didn’t know when or how to bring it up in the conversation that she was healing from sexual violence. Eventually, she decided to let the women she was dating know early on that she was a survivor, without sharing any details, and to be open about the fact that she was struggling with intimacy.

“The responses I got were incredible. So often, when I shared that I was a survivor, the person I was dating would say she was, too. We would share a moment of understanding—it was both saddening and beautiful.”

She disclosed to her wife on their first date, who shared that she was also a survivor.

“When I told her what specifically I can’t do, she listened and asked ‘what else?’ A weight came off my shoulders. And I felt so cared for to know that someone would truly listen and respect those boundaries.”

Because the assault began while Samantha was sleeping, she wasn’t able to sleep at night for a long time after and experienced PTSD related to her sleep.

“I turned to smoking pot every day and night. If I wasn’t working or expected to drive, I was high. At first, it was the only way I could sleep. I would be too scared to fall asleep in fear I’d be awakened by that assault and live through it again. I would smoke until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Even then, it wouldn’t stop the nightmares. It wasn’t until I met my wife that I was able to walk away from substances and truly use coping skills that I learned from my counselor. I remember the first night I fell asleep with her by my side. It was the first time I could truly sleep peacefully. I felt safe. After almost a year and a half...I could finally rest.”

Samantha comes from an accepting family and community and is very comfortable with who she is as a lesbian, but still feel fears being targeted as part of the LGBTQ community.

“When my wife and I are in public together and are holding hands, we are constantly vigilant of how people around us might react. We’re stared at a lot. We never know what’s going through someone’s head when they look at us like we’re from another planet. It confuses them, worries them, angers them, and sometimes motivates them to say something. It’s scary.”

While Samantha is grateful for her support family and friends and where she is in her healing journey and sense of self-worth, she wants to remind survivors and loved ones that PTSD can stay with you and come in many forms.

“I deal with it every day. PTSD isn’t just having anxiety attacks. Sometimes it means feeling zoned-out, irritable, apathetic, hyper-focused, argumentative, compulsive, etc. I just have to make the extra effort to figure out why I have these emotions and work through them in a healthy, self-loving kind of way. I just take it one day at a time.”

Samantha says that no survivor should be pressured to share their story, but for her, it has been helpful in her healing.

“You are not alone, it is not your fault. There is no excuse for assault.”

For more survivor stories of hope and healing, please visit rainn.org/stories.

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