Lea’s Story

“If somebody discloses, it’s not the time to push for details. Whatever the comfort level of the survivor is, meet them there.”

Lea Grover was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance at a party when she was fourteen-years-old. He cornered her, forced her to drink alcohol, and led her to an isolated room where he coerced her into performing sexual acts. When she cried and vomited, he physically assaulted her. Five days later, Lea attempted suicide.

She felt the assault was her fault and did not disclose until five years later when a friend at college shared her own experience with sexual violence. “I was having a hard time putting the word rape to what happened to me because I had been coerced until I said the word yes,” said Lea. “I kept saying no until I couldn’t think of another way out besides saying yes.”

Unfortunately, that was not Lea’s last experience with sexual violence. In college, she became friends with a man who was a survivor of child sexual abuse. “We were able to talk about our experiences together—and that was the leverage he used to assault me.”

He used emotional abuse and manipulation, threats of violence, and threats of self-harm against Lea to enable the assault. “He told me I was asking for it when I was fourteen. I slapped him. He hit me back and I went catatonic.” Lea went into a dissociative state and was unable to move during the assault. She could not leave her bed for the next three days.

Lea did not feel comfortable reporting him to law enforcement, but eventually sought protection after he stalked her and sent her death threats for two years following the incident. Lea felt going to the police to be both unfruitful and retraumatizing—they denied her an order of protection and she had to share details of the assault that she was not yet ready to revisit.

“People treat survivors with suspicion. If you wait to disclose, you lose credibility. You become an imperfect victim. They ask, ‘if it was that upsetting, why didn’t you do something differently?’”

 

Lea was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the second assault, and has found therapy, hypnosis, and learning about the effects of trauma to be helpful in her healing process. “I think self-care starts with understanding and having compassion for yourself. But it’s hard to understand or have compassion for yourself in the wake of trauma without understanding what trauma really means.” 

She is a vocal advocate for survivors of sexual violence. Lea says that the best way to support survivors is to believe them if they disclose an assault and not to ask for details they are not ready to share. “If somebody discloses, it’s not the time to push for details. The police need those details, but it’s not your job to retraumatize. Whatever the comfort level of the survivor is, meet them there.” 

In addition to sharing her story, Lea has found support from her friends and family to be most crucial throughout her healing process. “There is absolutely nothing as helpful as a good network of friends. Friends, in particular, who understand and respect your lived experiences and can offer compassion and perspective—without judgement.” 

Lea currently works in an anti-human trafficking organization recording the testimonies of survivors of sexual violence. She is looking forward to the upcoming release of her memoir on her experiences with mental illness, sexual violence, and her husband’s struggle with brain cancer. 

“One of the reasons I got involved with RAINN was so I could share my story. I’m not ashamed of what happened to me, and I’m not afraid.”

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