After Being Sexually Assaulted Twice, She’s Using Jiu-Jitsu To Transform Herself From A Victim Into A Survivor

Photo Source: Taylor O'Mara

Taylor O’Mara has been practicing jiu-jitsu for nine months. She’s a friend, a wife, a mother, and most importantly, a great human being.

She’s also a rape survivor.

For the past ten years, O’Mara has dealt with the effects of being sexually assaulted not just once, but twice. “I was young and my knowledge of safety was minimal,” she says, recounting the first time she was attacked. “I was placed in a situation where I could not defend myself. I was pinned down in his truck with nowhere to go. All I could do was keep pushing him away and hope that he would stop. I know no one could hear me and there was no help nearby.”

She hoped — and believed — that this would be her first and only time being faced with such a terrible situation, but five years ago, she was once again found herself fighting to protect her body… this time in her own office at work.

“He was a co-worker and I never thought he would’ve done anything. One day he starts acting strangely. He followed me to the back when I was trying to avoid him. He started forcing himself on me. He pushed me into the wall with the rape choke. I kept saying no and that did not matter to him. He wanted what he wanted and my answer did not matter. I was alone again and with no help nearby. I did not know how to defend myself. All I could do was yell even though I knew no one would hear me. However, that firm voice got him to stop and walk out.”

O’Mara, like many assault victims, began to experience PTSD-like effects from her attacks, including flashbacks and panic attacks that could be triggered by situations most people wouldn’t even think twice about. “I feared other people, even if there were not any intentions of harm. I didn’t like to socialize or be around people,” she says.

It wasn’t until a few months after her son had started jiu-jitsu that O’Mara herself decided to sign up. She didn’t have any goals in place when she started it, but it wasn’t long before the sport and community began to heal the wounds of her past. “As I started training in jiu-jitsu, I noticed everyone was like a big family. There is no judgment of others, and everyone is there for each other,” she says. For the first time since her first attack, her fear of leaving the house or being around large crowds began to subside. In fact, she began to look forward to being around other people and socializing, even outside of jiu-jitsu.

Still, training in such a close-contact sport hasn’t always been physically, mentally, or emotionally easy for her. She says she’s experienced many “minor triggers and flashbacks” as a result of training, especially while training guard (which, according to her, is now her “favorite”). “There is a big trigger and flashback that I experienced and it was from practicing the ‘rape choke’ in class. I was scared I was going to end up quitting jiu- jitsu with how bad it was. I felt like I let my training partner down and was embarrassed by it. All the incidents kept playing on repeat in my head. I couldn’t escape from it. It was a nightmare,” she says. After going home and discussing the incident with her husband, she felt better and reached out to her training partner to tell her what had happened and why. After receiving a very understanding and compassionate response, O’Mara felt emboldened enough to write about it on her blog. “That is when I put my story out there — instead of hiding my fears, I decided to face them.”

O’Mara credits a large part of her success in jiu-jitsu and her emotional recovery to the support she’s received from her instructor and teammates at Omar French BJJ, particularly her training partner and friend Mariangel French. “She has helped me overcome my fears. She motivates me and stays consistent with it. She keeps pushing me even when I wanted to give up.” Her instructor, Omar French, has also had a big impact on how much she’s progressed in her recovery. “He didn’t know what happened until I told him. He understands if I have to stop due to the triggers and flashbacks and I don’t feel bad for having to stop,” she says.

Having experienced the amazing effects a good training environment can have on a victim of trauma, O’Mara is encouraging other women to follow in her (and many other assault victims’) footsteps by using jiu-jitsu as a form of therapy and protection. “I know most women carry guns, but what if you cannot get to it? I cannot explain enough how important it is to learn to defend yourself. Women who have been sexually assaulted will face triggers and flashbacks. It is all part of the process of overcoming your fears. You will start to build confidence in yourself which will help you overcome this. You should find an academy that you feel comfortable with,” she advises.

O’Mara may have entered her first jiu-jitsu class a victim, but now, she’s a strong survivor. She’s become, in her words, “a better mother, wife, and woman” as a result of BJJ. She’s even conquered her fear of crowds by competing twice, and instead of dreading the experience in the future, she says she’s looking forward to the tournaments that lie ahead. And if you’ve struggled with the aftermath of being assaulted, she wants you to know that even though it may take a while, you’ll be okay. “Don’t fear reaching out to someone if you face a challenge during class. You are allowing other people inside of your bubble. It is a challenge itself, especially after experiencing a sexual assault. However, you will gain that comfort back and your confidence will increase. You will overcome this and be better than you ever were.”


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