To be a woman in a world where sexual assault is at its highest peak of terror in correlation to what society will turn a blind eye to is difficult to absorb. To explain to someone who has never had to worry about walking alone in a darken street, to someone who has never had their sobriety hazed to further break down their guards of protection, to someone who has never felt the terrors, the fears, the violations of physical and emotional sexual assault. So let me try, let me try to explain to you in such a way, you consider the utter importance of a woman’s choice, of a woman’s body, mind and state. And what you do with that, depicts how each and every one of us has a choice to stand up or stand down.
We see the news, we hear the stories, but yet, we turn away from talking about it, from doing something about it. We turn a blind eye to the courageous women that surely composed all of their strength, integrity and dignity just to find a voice to speak out about the trauma that was violently smeared upon them. And yet most of us do not do one single thing to aid in these victims horrors, we barely even speak of it. For what does that silence signify? That their problem is not our problem? That though it’s terrible and tragic that they must move on? Or maybe that the authorities will do whatever is deemed necessary to help them, so our actions do not matter? Can you honestly say you believe that? Can you honestly say that there is nothing that you or I can do to help aid in their cause? To help bring justice to their assailant? Because I assure you, that is exactly what silence feels like to the victims.
It wasn’t enough to have their bodies taken from them, to have their sense of security shattered, to have their emotional psyche perished. No, that’s not enough, because for these victims to step up and speak their truth, means they have to relive that terror over and over again in stories, in statements, in memory, in audiences. Furthermore, they often have their integrity devoured in the process of proving the sexual assault, which only leads to deeper violations of the overall assault.
Stop for a second and consider what it might be like to have to prove yourself of such an unwanted violation. Common questions such as: What were you wearing? Did you provoke him? Did you scream? Were you drinking? Why did you wait so long to report this? Could you be exaggerating? Did you actually say no? Do you have proof? Now imagine you are at the end of your rope, you feel drained emotionally, physically and intellectually and you gave every ounce of courage it took to put to words the actions of sexual assault and now you are asked to prove yourself? And we wonder why so many violations go unreported.
In a world where you are innocent until proven guilty, sexual violations are an open range and abusers actively use the damage of the assault to their advantage to further devoid them of any real consequence for their deadly actions. Sexual assault comes in many forms that isn’t bias to gender, race or age. It is more than just forcible touch, its emotional coercion, its unwanted advances, its physical, verbal and emotional on varying degrees of the spectrum. The darkest part of this truth? The assailant isn’t always the stranger, sometimes it’s the ones you trust most.
Understand that sexual assault is not something to joke about, it’s not something to dehumanize in words nor a lack of actions. It shouldn’t be so commonplace or as widespread as it is in present day society. And it certainly shouldn’t be ignored to the degree in which it has been. When is enough, enough?
Maya Angelou once said, “ Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” To all the survivors out there, if you haven’t already, I hope you find your voice, I hope you learn to let go of the shame and guilt that was never yours to hold. I hope you know that the truth can set you free. I hope you know you are not alone.
To be a survivor is something that will forever change the course of ones life, and the number of survivors that are out there are roughly 1 in every 20, so if you are survivor please know your story matters, please know that you matter. Understand that you did absolutely nothing to deserve such a violation, and even though I might not know you, understand that I will help you in any way that I can. I will not silence you. I will not stand down.