Surviving sexual assault
Content warning: This interview includes content about sexual assault.
Sexual assault is any kind of sexual activity that you don’t agree to or feel forced or pressured into. Some examples include unwanted touching or kissing, and rape or attempted rape. Sexual assault also can be verbal or visual. No matter the situation, sexual assault is never your fault. You have the right to decide what you do and don't want to do sexually. Even if you agreed to have sex with the person before, it’s not okay for them to force or pressure you into having sex if you do not want to.
Neesha Arter was 14 when she was sexually assaulted by two boys she knew and trusted. It took Neesha a long time to understand that it wasn’t her fault. She shares ways she learned to deal with her feelings and advice on how to help a friend who has survived a sexual assault.
How old are you, and what do you do for a living?
I’m 23 years old and a writer in New York City.
Will you tell us a little bit about the night you were sexually assaulted?
It happened on New Year’s Eve when I was visiting family in Houston, Texas. I was raped by two of my older cousin’s friends. I was 14 years old and a freshman in high school.
Will you share some of how you felt after you were sexually assaulted?
I was so young at the time, I mainly felt extremely uncomfortable. I really didn’t know how to feel, but I knew I wanted to crawl out of my skin. After it happened, I didn’t want anyone to know, but my parents soon found out, and a legal case began. It was especially challenging for me to relive the assault so many times with detectives and lawyers. But I was lucky to have a great support system.
Until I went to college, I never wanted anyone to know about it. That’s when I was finally able to talk openly about the assault with people in my life and voluntarily want to go see a therapist. The time and distance helped me greatly. In high school, I wasn’t ready to deal with my feelings, because I was so young. But once I got to college, I was able to start working through the past.
What’s your advice for other survivors who may be experiencing these feelings?
I was able to work through a lot of the pain of my sexual assault through therapy and writing. Sometimes it’s helpful to get your feelings down on paper, even if you don’t want anyone else to read them. I also told people I trusted about it and gained their support, which is something I would suggest. We all handle trauma differently, but these were things that helped me get through it.
How can girls help a friend who has been sexually assaulted?
I think it’s important to encourage the person to tell an adult they trust. I was so young when this happened that I didn’t even really understand what I was going through. It was critical that my parents found out about what happened so I was not the only one carrying the weight of it. Your safety — emotionally and physically — is the most important thing. Telling an adult is the one way to help ensure that you will be safe.
What do you want other survivors to know?
Regardless of what happened to you, you can get through it and lead a happy, fulfilled life. But how long it takes to get there is different for everyone. No matter what you went through, it does not have to define you.
As girls start dating, what do you think they should know?
It’s really important to find someone who respects you and whom you can trust. I think the best advice I can give about relationships is to go with your gut. Always.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
As scary as it is to tell someone you’ve been sexually assaulted, it is the best thing you can do. You might be scared at first, but there are many people that will want to help you through this. It’s not something you should have to go through alone.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, help is available. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at any time day or night. Visit loveisrespect.org to learn about getting help for yourself or for someone else in an abusive relationship.
If you have been sexually assaulted, you may feel awful. Learn more about handling your feelings.
Content last reviewed May 01, 2015
Page last updated May 01, 2015