My story of healing – Louise Gourlaouen
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
(Story updates in italics as up August 2019 are below.)
Louise Gourlaouen is an Instagram influencer and the genius behind the famous "PagentNews." After a traumatic kidnapping and assault that lasted for five days while on vacation, Louise has struggled with finding help, suicide attempts and the ability to trust people on her road to recovery. While still healing every day, she has found healing with a bustling career she’s passionate about and a new peer support network.
Learn more about her story of healing below:
Tell me about yourself. I’m a model and founder of "PagentNews." My job is my passion, and I couldn’t dream of a better job for myself. “PageantNews" is literally the thing that saved my life from several suicide attempts. I am so blessed to be able to do this full time.
What happened to cause your anguish? Two years ago, I was held hostage in my Airbnb, while on vacation in The Netherlands. My attacker followed me through the street, where there was no one around to witness. He threatened to kill me and then sequestrated me for five days, raped me probably multiple times, I’ve blocked this out, and beat me throughout. In the beginning, I didn't want to acknowledge what happened to me, so I returned home to Paris and kept the events of my attack to myself.
What was the moment that caused you to realize that you needed to seek care? Shortly after returning home, I started dating a man but was unable to become physical or have sex due to my trauma. I was able to open up to him about this and he was the only person to know about my rape for the first year. But I was still struggling on the inside and in June of 2017, I tried to kill myself. That “boyfriend” disappeared after this -- he never even came to the hospital to check on me, so at that point, I was completely alone without him, without my friends and without my family. That’s when I reach out for the first time for medical assistance with a psychiatrist, who actually wasn’t the right fit for me. And that’s when I started looking for help on social media and found private support groups and the peer support group that I’ve found healing through today.
What does your recovery look like? I'm currently in an association called Les Résilientes, based in Paris which helps victims from rape, and I found a second family here through their peer support and friendship. I have found one of my best friends here through the group.
My job is really my passion and has been a driving factor in my recovery. I created PageantNews six years ago, and I am so blessed to be able to do this full time now. I’m also an Instagram influencer (@louisegln). So, my professional life is about photo shoots, managing PageantsNews, the Instagram program and, really, it's amazing I can't dream of a better thing!
Where are you now?
It’s still so difficult for me to talk about. It took a lot of time for me to be able to talk about this even with these friends, because of survivors’ guilt. One of our friends lost her sister in the Bataclan attacks, so for me, it was hard to process my feelings, I was like, "I am still alive, I can't complain..."
The most difficult part of healing has been with intimacy with men. I haven’t been able to have sex since my attack, as though my body has been blocked. I’m still struggling with how to have loving relationships with sex and intimacy. But, I think this is totally normal for someone who has gone through what I’ve gone through and a normal part of the healing process.
Update: Since the article posted, Louise has been able to transition off of her antidepressants medications and will begin EMDR therapy in September. She's feeling much better and feels this is a big step for her.
One piece of advice you would give someone in a situation like yours trying to decide whether or not to seek care:
Get the help you need by seeing a psychiatrist and seek help with associations. I think that the most important thing is to find people who truly understand your feelings. Unfortunately, your family or friends may never be able to understand what a rape or your recovery feels like unless they lived through this situation themselves. I, personally, found a second family with the association, and an incredible team of strong women. When I have bad moments, I tell them because they truly understand instead of my family or my friends who may have trouble connecting with my experience.
If you or someone you know is the victim of a sexual assault, there are resources to help them. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es). When you call or access their live chat online, you'll to be routed to a local sexual assault service provider in your area. Trained staff can provide confidential support and connect you to resources in your area.
Mental Health Resources If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, don’t suffer in silence! There are free and affordable resources to help you get through these times. Here are just few options for you below:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255): Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential, toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network.
Some federal agencies offer resources for identifying practitioners and assistance in finding low cost health services. These include:
Health Resources and Services Administration works to improve access to health care. The website has information on finding affordable healthcare, including health centers that offer care on a sliding fee scale.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has information on its website about benefits and eligibility for its programs and how to enroll.
Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers resources to help answer questions about insurance coverage for mental health care.
Service members and Veterans have unique needs. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans provides for their specific needs.
National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) offers peer-to-peer support groups in most locations. This in-person group experience provides the opportunity for mutual support and positive impact. You can experience compassion and reinforcement from people who relate to your experiences.