Dear Daisy: How Can I Move On From Sexual Assault?

Dear Daisy: How Do I Move On From Sexual Assault?


by Daisy Buchanan |
Published on

When I got my first proper journalism job at Bliss magazine, I was incredibly excited about working for a magazine with a proper problem page. I was (and am) obsessed with agony aunts and advice columns, partly because of a lingering prurience - problem pages always had the best sex stuff - and partly because they taught me so much about the way we think and what we fear. Some of the letters were about having hairy nipples, but lots were about relationship issues, family problems, difficult friends and confidence crises. Everything you’d expect to hear from teen readers, but also everything I wanted the answer to for myself, as a woman in her twenties. I don’t think we ever grow out of problem pages, and at 30 I still have more questions than answers. However, I learned a few things from the wise experts and readers back at Bliss, and I’m looking forward to passing them on.

Email:, tweet me @graziauk or facebook me at Grazia UK with #DearDaisy and I will answer your questions! (Unless it’s to do with laundry. I am useless at that.)

Dear Daisy,

Recently my boyfriend of a few months bought a new coat. Stylistically, the coat is fine, standard issue parka. My problem is that it reminds me of an ex-boyfriend, who sexually assaulted me toward the end of our relationship. I can barely bring myself to look him in the eye while he is wearing it, and while I know this is absolutely not his fault, and I feel completely ridiculous, I don't know what to do.

Thanks in advance

My name is also Daisy

Hi Daisy (Great name!)

Oh, love, how absolutely awful. I am so, so sorry that this happened to you. It’s not ridiculous at all to feel this way.

I was raped and I did my best to avoid the memory until I was away on a press trip in Malta. I’d been taken for a boozy lunch, and was alone in my room reading The Brightest Star In The Sky by Marian Keyes, where a character is raped. Keyes’ brilliant book detonated an emotional bomb. I sobbed, on and off, for weeks and weeks, but in a weird way it was a positive period. When we allow ourselves to be triggered, and challenge our triggers, we can process a trauma instead of creeping around it. Otherwise we exhaust ourselves while repeating the mantra ‘Do NOT think about THE THING’.

I’m not sure when your relationship ended, but it takes a long, long time to recover from an assault. You were betrayed by the person you loved, who said they loved you, and that’s going to make you question your worth. So the most important thing to do is to do cherish yourself. You’re loved, adored and valued. You’ve got out of a bad relationship, and you’re living your life. You are brilliant and brave.

Therapy would be a great thing to do at this stage. If you see your GP and tell them that you'd like counselling following a sexual assault, they should be able to organise that for you and they shouldn’t pressure you to do anything you don't want to. If you can afford any private therapy, I’d recommend it. Almost all therapists have a sliding pay rate to match the incomes of their clients. There’s a list of affordable therapists here.

I’m not sure whether your current boyfriend knows about what happened, and whether you feel comfortable telling him. I’m sure that after what you went through with your ex, you’re struggling to trust people - even the ones who are very close to you. Sharing the information with your boyfriend is frightening, because there’s a chance that he’ll struggle to deal with it. When we learn that someone we love has been hurt, we don’t always say the right things. He will be angry with your ex, and devastated that you endured something so awful, and we don’t know how he will express those feelings.

However, he really needs to stop wearing this coat. It’s not fair to you to be forced to ignore the coat, and feel weirder, sadder and more uncomfortable every time he puts it on. And if you’re serious about each other and the relationship has a future, it’s not fair for him to have to see you feeling freaked out while trying to pretend that everything is fine.*

*If he knows, he needs to stop wearing the coat. It doesn’t matter if it’s Prada, or cost a billion pounds and has diamond buttons or if it’s was what he was wearing when his beloved family dog rescued him from the bottom of a well before breathing its last. Life is hard enough with trigger warnings before Hollyoaks and upsetting Lynx adverts and catcallers. You don’t need to be reminded of one of the most awful points of your existence every time he suggests a winter walk. And I’m so sorry about this, but if he knows what happened and continues to wear the coat, he is not The One. Cherishing yourself means surrounding yourself with people who love and cherish you. If your boyfriend understands the significance of the coat and appreciates that your happiness and wellbeing is much more important than looking good in a parka, he’s a cherisher. If he struggles to understand this, he’s just not good enough for you - nor tender or empathetic enough. I really, really hope he is understanding, and exercises his emotional intelligence. However, if he isn’t, that person is out there for you, and you’ll find them.

This is a horrible thing for you to have to deal with, but it’s also the opportunity for an exorcism. We can’t slay our ghosts but we can take away their power by confronting the way they make us feel - hopefully counselling and active self love and self care will help to restore you and remind you that you’re fabulous and strong. One day you will see something that reminds you of your ex, and you won’t feel frightened. It’s also a chance to make sure that this time around you’re in a relationship where you’re loved, respected and understood.

*All love and luck,


Rape Crisis offer support and advice for anyone who has experienced sexual violence. Phone: 0808 802 9999

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