Surviving Assault Without Your Tribe
This year has been a roller coaster for me.
I’m sure, like most people, my mental health has really been up and down this year as well. From dealing with the entire COVID-19 thing to being a victim of a serious domestic violence assault. It just seemed like I could not catch a break. To try to get back on track, I recently decided to try and see the good in everything. Working on becoming a better version of myself and fixing the negative aspects of my situation, I was able to come at peace with everything. I’m slowly making my way towards a great personal equilibrium and it feels great.
I started my Jiu-Jitsu journey pretty recently. I learned from a former acquaintance about it and finally decided to take a leap of faith and sign up at a gym. I started in January and instantly fell in love with it. At my gym, everyone was so welcoming and so encouraging. I enjoyed being put in uncomfortable positions and learning how to get out of them. I enjoyed my teammates and professors, who offered great advice on the many different techniques. I just enjoyed going to class, that I was literally going five days a week because I was determined to get better and felt the only way I could get better was to show up. Jiu-Jitsu quickly became my outlet to release stress and it allowed me to escape reality for a little.
March 2020 was the start of a detrimental time for me. My life changed in several ways negatively. I was violently assaulted, and my Jiu-Jitsu gym had to temporarily close to help flatten the curve for COVID-19. With being assaulted, I felt that I could not process what happened to me until recently. I’m learning, from my therapist, that we as humans deal with trauma in so many different ways. After my assault, I dealt with my emotions in embarrassing and honestly crazy ways. I pushed people, who I loved and needed around me, away. I couldn’t sleep for weeks following my assault. I got sick to my stomach whenever I replayed my assault in my head and I cried for weeks straight. I was not okay for a while and the only thing I wanted to do, was to go to my gym and practice Jiu-Jitsu.
Being on such strict restrictions, where everything I would have used as a distraction, was closed down was the start of a downward spiral for me. My state enforced a curfew and wanted to limit the amount of people who gathered together in group. All I wanted to do was cry and vent and be comforted by the people who meant the world to me. My tribe, as I call my core group of best friends, were spread out all over my state now because of COVID-19. The people I went to for advice, to vent to, to have fun with, where not even in the same city as me during the time whenever I needed them the most. I felt lonelier than ever. I could not sleep for shit, I was drinking entire bottles of wine and taking sleeping pills to try to induce sleeping. Every time I closed my eyes, I just imagined the assault happening all over again. I could hear his voice in my ear, I could feel the pressure of his forearm around my neck. Even if I managed to close my eyes briefly. I would always end up waking myself by having a panic attack. One of the saving graces was my friend Caroline. She isn’t part of my tribe, but I became close to her through our Jiu-Jitsu class. She was someone who I called multiple times day and night to talk about any and everything associated my assault. She was there for Me in a way that my tribe couldn’t be. She offered truthful advice, she validated my feelings, she believed me. And that is something I needed during this entire process. Of course, my tribe and the family members I told about my assault believed me. But it was comforting to have an “outside source” believe me as well. I had plenty of people who were trying to comfort me, but I was broken. I felt I lost my mind during this isolation time and didn’t even know where to start to help me get out of this depression.
One of my biggest mistakes, during this ordeal, was I reached out because I thought I needed closure. I wanted to let him know he hurt me, to let him know he was a piece of shit for what he done to me, to let him know I was pressing charges. Whenever my attacker was arrested, I didn’t know he was bailed out on conditions to not contact me. During the end of March and beginning of April, I did things that were extremely stupid. I had a situation that came to light, that I felt like he should have been informed about it. I was an idiot, I made stupid mistakes, I made embarrassing mistakes. Looking back at it now, I knew I was smarter than that. But at the time I was not thinking in logically. I was so wrapped up in my emotions and not coping properly with my traumatic experience. I know what I did, and what others attempted to do, will probably be used against me in the criminal case. It’s sucks to know that because of something small I did, could overshadow the fact that he attacked me and left me bruised and beaten. I’m learning our justice system, especially whenever it comes to domestic violence, does not always work in favor of the victims.
For me Jiu-Jitsu was used as escape to my problems. I think that’s why I went so much before the temporary closure of my gym. Of course, I wasn’t going through an assault before, but I did have relationship issues and just general issues that I did not know how to properly deal with. Not saying that Jiu-Jitsu was the only factor helping, but it was a huge factor for me. Finally coming to terms with my assault, seeking therapy and relying on a better support group has helped me tremendously in my recovery to become a better individual.
My attacker probably thinks he did nothing wrong. That I’m making everything up, that I’m crazy, etc. He is probably living his best life and telling people lies upon lies about this situation. And that’s completely fine. I have finally come to terms that I can’t live my life in the past and constantly think about this horrible experience if I want to move on. I know what he did to me, I have countless people who believe me and don’t see me in a different light because of this situation. I want to move on, I don’t want to be a victim anymore, I want to finally see the positive in this experience. I’m choosing to let the justice system do their job even though I know I probably won’t get the outcome I hope for. One thing that won’t change is my remembrance of this assault and one thing that won’t be broken is my voice to speak out against domestic violence situations. I will continue to tell my story and let my voice be heard.
This year, I have made so many mistakes and found it makes my life easier to just own up to everything, learn how to positively deal with it and move on. Now My way of dealing with my issues is to be on the mats. I’m still learning and will probably still suck at it for a while. But I have the desire and fire to be better in Jiu-Jitsu and in my personal life. Jiu-Jitsu isn’t a miracle drug, it won’t give you superpowers, but honestly sometimes it feels that way.
Submitted and written by Stacey Moore
Stacey is a white belt at Lucas Lepri’s Charlotte HQ. She is new to BJJ but has fallen in love with the art.