Tara's Story

“It’s important for people who are in this situation to know that they’re not alone.”

When Tara was 14, she was forcibly taken by car to the woods and sexually and physically assaulted by a group of men. Starting at age 16, she began experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). At age 21, Tara was cornered at a party by two men who sexually assaulted her.

“I’m a very open person with everything else, I’m very outgoing and I talk a lot. But when it came to these things, it took me years to say anything to anyone. The first time I talked about them was years later with my husband and after that with my therapist.”

Because of the sexual assault and intimate partner violence, Tara has experienced PTSD, depression, panic attacks, and bipolar disorder. “The panic attacks are horrible. It feels like you can’t breathe. You’re under water and you’re drowning, suffocating.” Tara says the sexual assault and abuse have negatively affected her relationships with friends and family.

Tara has found therapy extremely helpful in her healing process. She and her therapist practice several different therapy techniques together, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Tara has found it useful to develop grounding techniques with her therapist that she can take home and use whenever she feels she needs them.

In addition to therapy, Tara says that taking a long, hot bath each night is her go-to self-care strategy because it relaxes her and regrounds her in her body. Tara has also found writing and the support of her husband, mom, and friends to be extremely healing. “Anyone can say ‘I understand.’ But it takes a lot for somebody to sit and really listen.”

 

Tara participated in a photoshoot for women who have survived domestic violence or sexual assault. At first she was nervous and found the process intimidating, but soon felt that being photographed in a positive and empowering way was helpful in learning to feel at home in her body again. “I ended up doing it just to show my own self that no matter what happened in the past, you can overcome it. The scars are just scars. What’s on the outside doesn’t matter to who you are on the inside.”

It’s also crucial to Tara in her healing process to raise awareness and education efforts about sexual violence, especially for kids and teens. “There has to be education about the dangers of what to look for, what the laws are regarding sexual assault, what dating violence is, and what date rape is. If something happens, you can say something.”

As a parent, she feels it is important to stay connected to her kids’ social media accounts and those of their friends so she can know what issues may be important to talk with them about. She also speaks about parents and educators paying close attention not only to physical warning signs of abuse, but emotional signs in kids and teens such as lashing out in anger, isolation, and depression. “For me those were the big signs. My parents picked up on them because I wasn’t very good at hiding it, but I made a lot of excuses.”

Tara’s advice to other survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault is to remember that there is always a way out. “Whether it’s talking to a family member or friend, going to the police, or finding a shelter, there’s always somebody you can reach out to.” Tara emphasizes that each survivor’s experience is unique and that what’s important is they find the right path.

Tara currently is a full-time mom of three children, and spends the rest of her time advocating on behalf of many charities and organizations through walks and other fundraisers. “I find a lot of joy in doing that.”

“The longer I kept it in, the harder it was to talk about it—and the harder it was going forward. I would definitely encourage survivors to talk about it. There's always somebody that’s willing to listen.”

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