In last week’s article we discussed the fact that sexual violence is everyone’s problem. Many of us choose to believe that the issue is insignificant which would justify our lack of action. Truthfully, whether you have been sexually victimized or not, you know someone who has been, and their life has forever been altered as a result.
Sexual violence is not an issue that affects only women, nor is it an issue that we can continue to ignore. The world is in pain, the people in our world are in pain, yet we continue to ignore the injustices that are plaguing our societies. We have created environments where people feel it is acceptable to infringe on the rights of those deemed less powerful. We have created environments where those who are victimized are villainized, where society holds them accountable for the crimes committed against them. We live in environments where we only pay attention to the injustices happening around us when we are directly affected.
Sexual violence has affected both men and women for centuries, but women have been more vocal, and I say that all the while realizing that the number of women who have been vocal are minuscule compared to the number of women who have not been. Society has shamed females into silently being brutalized because when they choose to use their voices, they are accused of causing their assault. Men are afraid to share their stories or seek support because they are afraid of being attacked.
We live in a world where people get to walk away after forcefully exerting their power over others. We live in a world where we don’t take a stand against the injustices that plague our societies. We live in a world where people’s human rights are constantly being ignored with little to no recourse. In this week’s article, I thought we could discuss why no one should feel ashamed to share their story. While we continue on in the article, should you begin to feel anxious or scared please stop reading. Should you feel triggered by something in the article or start experiencing flashbacks, please put the article down, take a few deep calming breaths. Once you feel calmer, decide if you want to continue reading the article or you need to take a break. As you are either starting your healing journey or continuing, one of the first steps is listening to what your body is telling you it needs. The articles will always be there.
Society has instilled in victims of sexual violence an immense fear of sharing their stories. Society has told them that while we all agree depending on the severity of some of these crimes, we still also think that you caused this crime to be committed against you. The physical scars that you were sexually assaulted, it is still your fault and that you should feel ashamed to tell people about it. You should feel ashamed because you wanted this to happen, should have known this would happen, created the environment where this could happen, misinterpreted what happened, therefore we reserve the right to do nothing about crimes of this nature. On the contrary, it is my human right to be safe in my body.
It is my right to not have to fear my body being used and abused. Regardless of the situation, the victim is told there is something they could have or should have done to stop the sexual assault. It is bad enough that society makes you feel this way publicly but then those at home, those within your close circle also turn around and make you feel like sharing your story would sully the reputation of the family. Again, the message is, your pain and suffering is not a big enough issue to warrant you getting justice, or that your pain and suffering when compared to that of the abuser is not worth the attention he will get that will damage his life moving forward. No one cares about how the victim of sexual violence is damaged after they are sexually assaulted. I have said this quite often and I will continue to; sexual violence is traumatic. It can be violent, it can be manipulative, it can be coercive, and it is always psychologically damaging to the victim. The ‘what if’ scenario replays over and over, as they try to figure out what they could have done differently to avoid being victimized.
Sharing your story can be scary, many survivors spend a great deal of time worrying about how they will be judged, how they will be blamed, how they will be made to feel or think that this was something that they could have stopped or prevented. When you finally share your story, it will help you realize that you are not alone, that you did not cause your sexual assault and that there is nothing to feel shame for. The shame and guilt is to stop you from sharing your story, to stop you from reporting crimes about sexual violence. The shame and guilt are manifested to allow perpetrators of these crimes to control you, to infringe on your human rights without fear of punishment. It may not be now but when you are ready, share your story, it is yours to share.
As this week’s article comes to an end, I would like to remind you of a couple of things. As we continue to exist in an uncertain environment, if you are feeling more triggered that is completely understandable. Don’t be hard on yourself, uncertainty is a trigger for many but definitely for survivors of sexual violence. I want you to remember that you are strong, brave, intelligent, resilient and worthy of being loved. You are not alone. Know we are here to listen and help. We are all walking a similar path, and we understand on some level your pain. You are not alone; I know it often feels that way. But know you are not. We are here to listen. Call if you need to vent, or if you need company to just be on the phone.
We, at PROSAF, have acknowledged that violence against women is a problem in St Lucia and the wider Caribbean. We are here to begin the metamorphosis that is desperately needed. If you are interested in finding out more information about sexual violence and what you can do as part of this community, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or visit the webpage: www.prosaf.org.