Wow, this last issue of Buffy was... beautifully cathartic and heartwrenching. I, like you, am a survivor of assault and abuse. Additionally, I, like you, was (still is sometimes) dealing with a lot of depression during that period of my life and subsequently I put myself in a lot of positions I wouldn't normally have if I were dealing with my emotions. Therefore I blamed myself for a lot of the horrible things that have happened. Also, I personally knew men who committed violence to women, and the entire time they were doing it, they rationalized their behavior, and didn't see what they were doing as assault. I have known so many women who have experienced assault, rape, manipulation, coercion... I know that the statistic is that it's 1/4 women have experienced that, but it seems like SO many more than 1/4. Not to mention, I know that the statistic is much higher than 1/4 for women of color. It's really hard to trust men, given the statistics, and given my history (and your history) of trusting men and having them turn out to be monsters.
Like you did, I get triggered a lot when men touch me, and I feel hurt, scared, and angry when tiny unrelated things remind me of something that happened. It can be anything from seeing someone that looks like someone, or from hearing an innocuous sentence, being touched in a similar way, a song, a certain situation, hearing the name of the person... I experience an icy shudder of dejavu and it makes me feel like throwing up, screaming, punching and sobbing all at once. I'm angry at the men that used to be my friends who have done horrible things. I'm also angry and terrified at myself for trusting them, for putting myself and people I love in the pathway of so much hurt.
I love the way Jean put it. Helping women does make me feel a lot better. Helping anyone makes me feel better. Talking, living, loving makes you strong... "But most of all yourself, that makes you strong." It never goes away. There's no easy way to heal these dark wounds. The pain and the triggers will always be there, but the strength that we all have in ourselves is what makes it manageable. The love we have for others and ourselves is where we draw our power, our gift.