I Can’t Listen to People’s Trauma Stories Anymore

But I can help in other ways

Merre Larkin


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I was raped by a stranger while taking a walk on the beach over thirty years ago. I was in my mid-twenties. I was married and had a fifteen-month-old daughter when it happened. It blew up my life. For years.

I let the rape define me for a long time. I thought people could tell as soon as they saw me, even met me for the first time. I thought everyone read it on my face. I’d cut to the chase and tell them soon after getting to know them.

I’ve experienced a myriad of reactions. Some have been completely unkind. Thoughtless. Some of them women. It turns out some women want to believe it’s your fault so they can believe it will never happen to them.

Once I realized that, I didn’t let women who had that response bother me. Most women were gentle and validating. And, those women usually had a story to tell me in kind.

That’s what started to bother me. Too many women told me about their own trauma. Epidemic proportions. I shared my story with countless women over the years, many more women than men, and at least one out of two shared their own story with me. Some women had never told anyone and I was the first. Some had only told their husband. And me.

Men also shared with me their stories of trauma. I don’t think any of them had ever told anyone.

For a long time, this outpouring of trauma stories fueled my activism. My writing. Even jobs that I worked. I volunteered at the local rape crisis center wherever I moved. (I moved a lot.) I had to do the training at each new center. I grew to know a lot, and I didn’t hold back getting involved in events to help spread the word about sexual assault awareness, rape trauma syndrome (PTSD), and the startling statistics on rape.

I worked as a clinical counselor at a treatment program for women, and it was rare to have a woman come through our doors who hadn’t endured sexual trauma. I also encountered it as a behavioral specialist with children and youth, and as a case manager with homeless women.

Things changed for me, though, when I moved back to the town where my rape had happened. It happened in Monterey, a beautiful place, and one I’d always been…



Merre Larkin

Writer. Life coach. Educator. Marathoner. Survivor. Avid reader. Here to share, here to learn.