It has only been a month since host and vlogger Bianca Valerio opened up about her experience having been sexually assaulted by a man she met at a private party but, to her, it’s been a period of healing from a trauma that’s lasted for almost a year—a crippling pain that burned so deep that she couldn’t find the strength nor courage to share it…until now.
“Shame is one of the most prevalent effects of trauma. ‘Trauma’ on the other hand, is such a misunderstood concept as is mental health. One always assumes, ‘…that could never happen to me,’ “ Bianca began in an interview with When In Manila as she spoke of what had happened to her from that time ’til her public admission—particularly the deterioration of her mental health and the self-deprecating thoughts that pervaded her mind every single day.
“At the very least, the shame I felt manifested in my daily self-talk: in the shower, while eating, doing errands or just about anything,” she continued. “The shame and pain were so intense that I started to self-harm, almost daily. It was a toxic coping mechanism where it was better to feel the momentary physical pain than withstand the unbearable emotional and psychological pain that never went away. It was this distorted feeling of gaining back some sense of control, over a criminal act, wherein it was taken from me.”
All this she expertly hid behind picture-perfect smiles on camera, not just to her social media followers but even to her loved ones as well.
“I actually have the most ideal job: performing. So that’s exactly what I did. Pretending everything was okay since June 23 last year was my greatest performance for my loved ones, my clients, including social media. It masked any inkling of what I was really going through.
“On the outside, I seemed connected with everyone but it was all very fleeting. The moment work was done, my make-up stripped and persona turned off, I was more disconnected from everyone than I ever was because I knew I was living a lie. It’s a kind of loneliness that’s very hard to describe and the toughest to endure,” she said.
But what she wasn’t prepared for was how this persistent negative thinking would start to affect her physically.
“In hindsight, by refusing to listen to my inner voice, refusing to acknowledge how the various forms of trauma from that night really made me feel by pretending nothing’s wrong, I was ultimately neglecting myself. And that neglect manifested in my physical health,” she lamented. “Since the incident and considering the healthy girl that I am, I’ve had multiple, serious diagnoses in various parts of body, including one surgery, to say the least. My medical conditions, which all came about out of nowhere, we’re induced by “severe amounts of stress,” as per doctors.”
“So even if I was mentally hacking it and “staying positive,” my physicality was suffering. I just could no longer keep up with the lie by staying silent. All I could think of was, “why should I be the one who’s suffering when I wasn’t the one who committed the crime??” People need to understand that unprocessed trauma will manifest itself physically through chronic illness and disease,” she continued.
She credits her Grief Counsellor, whom she remains in contact with since her brother passed away in January 2017, for helping her get through this harrowing experience.
“Had it not been for her, I don’t know where or how I would’ve initially survived. Yes, I survived the actual sexual assault but the invisible wounds trauma leaves in us inflict longer, deeper pain until they are addressed and processed,” she said.
Bianca also shared that it’s also because of her faith in God and her prayers to her late brother that she was able to find a source of strength, healing, and inner guidance. “It was in those moments of terrifying silence, I was able to feel their guidance,” she expressed.
In time, she was able to finally stand up for herself and speak her truth against her sexual harasser, no matter what other people may say.
“It was only in mid-March, I granted myself the greatest love of all by showing up for myself,” she said, referring to the video she made on Instagram wherein she decided to take legal action against her predator—whom she cannot publicly name at the moment until after formal charges are filed.
And “like magic,” it was as though a big weight was lifted off her shoulders and she was finally free of the pain, the shame, and fear that she carried for so long in her heart and soul.
“That feeling of “lightness” and inner peace has also been an indication that I am on the right path towards justice, not just for myself but also for this convicted criminal’s other multiple victims through the years. This wasn’t just about warning the public about a specific person. This incident represents something so much bigger. It’s to bring awareness to the toxic cycle of sexual violence: where one commits the crime AND there’s the people who turn a blind eye to it. Both of whom, are disturbingly common and prevalent in the world – in our country, in your circles and even your families, every single day. It’s a society where no one can say that it could never ever happen to them,” she shared.
“I consider myself to be a very strong person. I didn’t say perfect. I said, strong. And in that same breath, I am also still on my healing journey because I do know I am a continuous work in progress! I still got loads of baggages to unpack and I feel no shame in admitting that! It’s why I never stopped going to counseling way after my brother died and everyone who knows me knows how proud I am of seeing a counselor.”
She then advised anyone who has gone or is going through a similar situation to seek professional help through counseling or therapy, and to not be scared to do so.
“Just because seeking mental help is not normalized, doesn’t mean it’s not necessary and one should be ashamed of. In fact, it is essential to help us attain and experience #LivingOurBestLife as healed, self-aware individuals,” Bianca urged.
“Healing is non-linear. It’s like a dance. Some days you’re moving forward then some days you stumble and fall back. It’s like a relapse where you feel frustrated and you want to quit. Keep going… what matters is you keep dancing – keep moving to bettering yourself until you discern that inner rhythm you trust. Remember, tiny wins are better than none. You are your greatest asset and you are a gift to the world. Treat yourself as such.”
Bianca also stressed the importance of self-awareness in helping process trauma in a healthy way.
“I believe that for as long as there is a desire for personal growth, there will always be some healing that needs to take place in order to arrive at the next level of your life. Personal expansion cannot exist without subjecting ourselves to some amount of pain and vulnerability. It’s how you perceive the pain and how you deal with it, that matter,” she said. “‘Your trauma is not your fault but your healing is your responsibility.’”
To end, Bianca also provided this advice for everyone else who knows someone close to them going through their own personal battles.
“People perceive depression to be grand moments in time where you’re endlessly crying in a dark room. When in fact, depression can be as simple as getting up from bed, going to school or work, where you smile at everyone you meet then go back home to do nothing until it’s time to go back to bed. Then having to do that again. And again.
“Oftentimes, when people confide in you, unless they specifically ask, you don’t need you to provide any solution. They just need someone to offer them a safe space to feel seen and heard. You literally don’t even have to do much. Just be there, be present, listen and show empathy.
“Empathy doesn’t need you to relate to another’s experience. It only asks you to put yourselves in their shoes, for a moment in time, as a way to offer strength, support and compassion.
“To want to relate is to be human. To be able to show empathy is to embody humanity.
“So as the late Robin Williams said, ‘Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.’”
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