Saying it Out Loud

Women are taught all the ways to not get assaulted… Let’s ignore the fact that it’s the attackers fault, but we all know the list below is necessary when it really should have to be.

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So often I’m with someone I know. Someone I’ve talked to enough to tell them that I was molested as a child. We will already be in the midst of a emotionally charged conversation when I say:

“I was sexually abused as a child.”

There is something about that phrase that will make the nicest people I know verbalize violence against those who hurt me. This last time was a very sweet woman I’ve known for about 3 months and she has never been anything other than kind, but with this reveal, I saw her face and demeanor change in a flash. On one hand you could say it’s because she is a women and we women have to stick together, but I don’t fully agree with that. I’ve known male friends who had the same reaction. Time and time again, I’ve revealed this bit of history about myself and I’ve seen all types of reactions, but I have yet to reveal to someone who didn’t believe me.

Well, aside from when I first spoke out as a child. As an adult, I’ve never be accused of being a lying attention seeking brat or a family destroyer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had negative reactions that leaned towards blaming a 4 year old version of myself for not telling someone sooner. I’ve had to explain to them that these abusers raised me to be complicit in these activities in much the same way that a child will clean their room or eat their vegetables. They don’t want to, they don’t like to, but they do it because an adult they were told to trust by a parent told them they have to do it. As a child, being sexually abused was equivalent to eating my broccoli at dinner. When I explain this to them, I see realization hit their face. Childhood sexual abuse is much more complicated than they expect, and it’s not the same as adult sexual assault.

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Women are taught all the ways to not get assaulted… Let’s ignore the fact that it’s the attackers fault, but we all know the list below is necessary when it really shouldn’t have to be.

  • Don’t drink outside the house
  • Don’t get drunk
  • Don’t do drugs
  • Don’t have sex
  • Don’t let anyone fix you a drink
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended
  • Don’t dress inappropriately
  • Don’t walk inappropriately
  • Don’t tease men
  • Don’t be alone with strangers
  • Don’t walk outside at night
  • Don’t walk alone
  • Don’t wear earbuds or headphones while in public
  • Don’t enter isolated areas
  • Don’t sit in your car in a parking lot
  • Don’t give men the wrong impression
  • Don’t refuse a man’s advances
  • Take self defense classes
  • Stay aware of your surroundings
  • Keep pepper spray on you
  • Hold your keys as a weapon
  • Check inside your car before getting in
  • Stay on the phone when out alone
  • Always walk briskly, confidently, and unencumbered

All of these things are what women are taught so they don’t get sexually assaulted. This shouldn’t even be a thing aside from the fact that most of these only “protect” women from a minuscule percentage of sexual assault situations, not to mention that, and hold on tight here, MEN GET SEXUALLY ASSAULTED TOO! 

The lack of awareness not to mention the lack of appropriate awareness is staggering. Here are some facts that are backed by numbers:

  • You are 3 times more likely to be attacked somewhere you are comfortable instead of walking down the street or sitting in a parking lot. The majority of places where people are assaulted are in their homes, schools, daycare, church, work, and any other place you feel safe.
  • 3 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. Picture that for a moment. In a classroom of first graders, if there are 8 girls, 6 of them will be victims of sexual assault before they are adults.
  • 75-90% of perpetrators accused will never see trial or jail time.
  • Less than 10% of people are falsely accused.

All of this knowledge and fact is based on reports that are estimated only get filed in less than 30% of those who are abused. Let’s thank RAINN for these numbers. Some of the stats I pulled a few years ago before they updated the page and I kept as notes while writing my Memoir.

We are emphasizing the wrong awareness. Instead we should be teaching children how to identify and say no to family members who want to touch them inappropriately. We should be teaching children personal boundaries and it’s okay to say no to an adult if something bad is happening. We should be teaching all young adults responsibility for their actions and the true meaning of consent. We should be teaching people that sexual assault is a horrible crime where victims struggle to survive. Anyone can be sexually assaulted by anyone. No one is automatically immune to sexual assault because of their age, gender, race, orientation, or any other aspect.

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The outrage for victims should be more than something shared between survivors, victims, friends, and family. Outrage for what is happening should be transparent and announced. Telling me that the thought sickens you does no good if you continue to vote, represent, protect, or support a perpetrator. That is just placating me and that is useless. I don’t need people — victims and survivors don’t need to be placated. We need to be heard and we need justice.

D.A.s need to stop dropping charges because it doesn’t seem like a win for them. Bargaining for a plea of guilty shouldn’t be the only way perpetrators end up in jail. Claims of sexual assault are not the victims fault regardless if they did something irresponsible. The person who sexually assaults another person for any reason is to blame and should be punished. When there is almost no threat of punishment, this horrible crime will not stop. Without that, child predators and even adult predators will continue to abuse because even if they are revealed, all they have to do is find a new victim. I’ll say it one more time…

Perpetrators will only stop when they know they will be caught and punished.

Legislation and culture needs to change so that victims are protected instead of perpetrators. Its wrong to sexually assault another human.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, I believe you. I don’t need to know your story. I don’t need to meet you. I believe and support the various campaigns that have started up to help awareness and survivors.

#startbybelieving

Survivors are Everywhere!

Latest Me Too movement and running into other survivors in my daily life.

This week has been a flood of Me Too statuses on Facebook and retweets on Twitter. I’m used to the somewhat common outreach from the Start By Believing campaign. I’ll see the occasional billboard around town or posts on Facebook by them, so that’s expected. What was not expected was seeing friend after friend on posting Me Too as their status. Friends that I never knew shared a similar horror as myself.

When I was a scared 12 year-old girl crying in the school counselor’s office with a large male police officer staring at me, I felt alone. In that moment, it felt like my whole life was a lie and I wasn’t sure how I would survive this ordeal. I didn’t know (or thought I didn’t) anyone who had been sexually abused.

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Until an hour ago, I didn’t know what sexual abuse was or that it was even something that could happen. In that moment, I felt hopeless and alone. I spent the next 2 years feeling even more alone while the court system forced me to talk to doctors, therapists, and lawyers. None of them reassured me that they had been through the same thing and it would get better. At no point did someone tell me that they knew what I was going through because they had. I know now that 1 in 4 children will be sexually abused before they legally become an adult. With those odds, someone I talked was a survivor as well.

For example, I went to get a professional massage. It’s the third one I’ve ever had and I always put on the paperwork that I am a sexual assault survivor. I put it because I don’t want to startle them too much if I emotionally lose my shit on their massage table. I don’t owe them an explanation, but I’ve learned from experience that it’s far less confusing for them if they know in advance. She read over my paperwork and didn’t mention it. I’m used to it, the topic makes people uncomfortable.

I do still get a bit nervous, so I have a tendency to nervously talk the entire time. We talked about my built-up tension in my shoulders and neck, and then how I relax. Essentially, I don’t. I work my day job full time, and when I’m not working, I’m usually working around the house or writing. This led me to discussing the headache of trying to publish my memoir and what all it entails. At some point, I slipped up and instead of being vague, said that a marketing plus for a publisher would be that survivors find other survivors encouraging. I wrote my book to share my story with other survivors in hopes that they could open up and start talking about their own. Without a pause she added, “Talking is what helped me deal with my own.” We didn’t need to get into details. We didn’t get uncomfortable. Actually, at that point, I relaxed a considerable amount.

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Think about this next time you are in a room or group of people. If there are more than 3 people in that room, chances are 1 of them was sexually assaulted at one point in their life, or 1 of them will. Looking up the statistics is frustrating and confusing. Every site has statistics have varying numbers. Part of that is because SO MANY victims and survivors never report their assault. How can you accurately quantify a crime that is only reported 25% of the time?

3 different men abused me without knowledge of the others. I didn’t know I was being abused until I saw a video explaining what abuse was. I accidentally reported 1 of my three abusers because I had a breakdown right after the video at the school. It was a year later before I remembered the other 2 abusers, and I didn’t report them for fear of not being believed. When I told my mother, she believed me immediately, but I was still terrified that people wouldn’t believe that 3 separate men had done the same thing to me. Now I know that it’s not uncommon for children to have more than 1 abuser, but as a child, I felt alone. I personally have a 33% rate of reporting abusers.

Survivors can be anywhere. We can live normal lives and not reveal ourselves unless we choose to. We have husbands, wives, and children. We can work all kinds of jobs and have all kinds of personalities. We don’t have a type. We can unite in the knowledge that we are not alone and continue to fight to survive. We are Survivors.

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Years later I discovered that I already knew survivors. Several in fact. A year doesn’t go by that I hint at it during a casual conversation and the person I am talking to is a survivor as well. So many times, I have said something, and they have agreed. In that moment, we both acknowledge each other. A silent agreement to persevere and reassurance that we believe. Many times they have never admitted it before; never had the courage to tell someone. Because of the fear from the other person not believing, denying, or even accusing them. We can find support and a kind of camaraderie among other survivors.