When I worked in sexual assault as a legal and medical advocate, many clients were raped in the context of an abusive relationship. Both issues are about control and power – among other things – and it results in much overlap between the two worlds.
Last night I attended a talk given by a Project Coordinator of the local Domestic Violence shelter who does outreach within the Latina community. She educated the audience about the specific risk factors, trends she is seeing, and how often women are “strong, intelligent, but also naive” when it comes to healthy relationships and pass red flags for “oh, that’s normal” behavior. She also spoke to the commonality for women to be raped by their abuser.
Survivorship is not one dimensional. Sexual assault is sometimes only one of many things that are survived by survivors. Physical, emotional, and psychological abuse sometimes go hand in hand with survivors. The complexity of domestic violence and sexual assault cannot be explained in one letter, but you can write a letter about what you yourself have survived.
Offering your solidarity to a reader doesn’t mean writing a litany of all occurrences and abuse that you have experienced. It means offering your understanding that abuse and assault often and do occur and you found your way out. You survived.
Tell her how you did. Tell her not only how you survived, but how you lived afterward to write a letter.