Over Secrets And Fears
– The Prosaf Team
In last few weeks our articles have focused on advocating for survivors. Survivors of sexual violence need to know the environment they live in supports and understands what they have lived through, we should be striving to create an environment where they feel supported, heard, understood and believed. We have been existing in a space of blissful ignorance regarding sexual violence crimes. We admit on some level that sexual violence is an issue but not a big enough one to warrant a collective fight for a change.
In this week’s article we thought we would discuss why so many feel the need to shame survivors of sexual violence, child abuse, incest etc. As we continue through with our article, I ask that you pay attention to how you are being affected by its contents. There is a possibility that you may feel triggered, that you may have flashbacks. Pay attention to your body and how it reacts; sweaty palms, shaky hands, anxiety, heart racing, etc. Should anything like this happen, take a moment, stop reading, sit, try to calm yourself by remembering that in this moment, you are safe. As survivors of trauma, we can all be triggered through the written word, learn to listen to what your body is telling you and act accordingly. There is no rush to finish the article.
The very nature of sexually violent crimes is encased in a veil of secrecy, the victim/survivor knows what is happening is wrong, it feels wrong, it hurts, they are in pain but they are also aware that should they attempt to share their story, they will be shamed into feeling like they not only should have expected to be assaulted, but that they should have also prepared to stop the attack.
A large number of survivors/victims feel ashamed that they were sexually assaulted, as if this isn’t bad enough, they are then publicly shamed for being assaulted. Do we shame people for being victims of robbery? NO, we sympathize with them, we condemn the individual who chose to break into another person’s place of business or residency. Yet when a human body is broken into, entered without permission, ignoring the pleas of NO, we still justify turning around and blaming the woman, man or child who falls victim to crime of sexual violence. When society blames the victim/survivor, they learn to internalize it all and blame themselves, even when there was nothing they could have done to stop the attack, nothing they could have said that would have changed the mind of the individual hell-bent on taking what they wanted against the will of the victim/survivor.
Survivors of sexual violence take the shame of what has been done to them and walk around with it. They blame themselves for a crime they were unable to prevent. Are we asking that men and women and children walk around expecting to be sexually assaulted? The answer is NO, we aren’t because we are also living in a space where we chose to behave like crimes of sexual violence don’t exist or that if they do exist they only happen to BAD girls and boys. The truth is that sexual violence doesn’t discriminate, none of us is safe and as such none of us should behave like sexual violence will not affect us or those we love. The truth is that there are many sick individuals gracing our presence, who will take advantage of the fact that our environment allows crimes of sexual violence to go unpunished and they are aware that we will blame and shame survivors into silence.
Survivors of sexual violence walk around feeling humiliated by the fact that they were sexually assaulted. They blame themselves for not stopping or preventing the crimes committed against them when they could not have known they would have been betrayed by the individual now forcing themselves on them. They should not be expected to preempt an attack of sexual violence. They should not be expected to accept blame for not stopping something they didn’t know would happen.
Many survivors are ashamed of what happened to them, some are ashamed their bodies betrayed them by becoming aroused and other are ashamed, in their opinion, for allowing this crime to be committed against them. It takes most survivors a long time to understand that you shouldn’t have to feel shame for what was done to you, this was a crime committed against you. One’s body may have become aroused, which leaves many survivors confused as to how they felt and how their bodies reacted. Arousal doesn’t in any way indicate consent or for that matter that you wanted or enjoyed the crimes being committed against your will.
Many survivors go through the what-if/should’ve 20 questions and blame themselves for every aspect of the crime, I should’ve done more to stop it, I should have said no, I should have told someone, what if I hadn’t gone out, what if I hadn’t worn that dress. Then you ask yourself, if your attacker was someone you knew, why you didn’t see this and anticipate it, you wonder how you could’ve been so foolish to allow it to happen. You couldn’t have known this would happen, and once it was, there was nothing you could do to stop it. Finding the courage to tell someone, that is if the abuse is on-going, is often very difficult; many never find the strength to come forward. Don’t be hard on yourself, don’t beat yourself up, there was nothing you could’ve done differently or better. This was a crime committed against you, your thoughts, pain, opinions, physical & mental wellbeing were never taken into account by your abuser. Know that you are & were stronger than you’re giving yourself credit for.
The decision to not speak out, not seek help, not face the crime committed against you, does not mean that you embrace what was done, it doesn’t mean that you are thrilled with the cards that life dealt you. When you are ready start working towards your healing journey and to putting your needs first. Your choice to speak out means that you have decided that you are no longer keeping your abusers secret. It means that you are fighting the shame and blame so many are putting on you and saying, I did nothing wrong, I did not ask for nor wanted this. It means you are reclaiming your voice and your life. It means that while this assault/abuse broke a part of you, that you have decided and started to put the pieces back together. Speaking up and out means that you have let go of all the baggage you have been carrying for fear of shaming the family or getting your abuser in trouble. It doesn’t make you selfish for wanting your life to be better. You are emerging a stronger woman/man.
Sexual Violence has never been limited to the female sex; so as I write this article, I want our male survivors to know that their voices are important and always welcomed. All articles written by PROSAF are for men, women and children who are survivors of sexual trauma. Our articles are for all survivors of trauma going through their healing process.
Always remember, call if you need/want to vent if you need company to just be on the phone. We are here to help. Text, email, call, you are not alone. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, you were violated. You don’t have to keep secrets you don’t want to keep to protect anyone. You don’t have to let anyone into your life who doesn’t understand or support you. Should you want to discuss or ask a specific question don’t hesitate to send it in. Please don’t give up.
Souyenne Dathorne, Velika Lawrence, Miguelle James & Jayde Jean
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – email@example.com
Facebook: SURVIVING SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CARIBBEAN: https://www.facebook.com/pages/PROSAF-Surviving-Sexual-Abuse-in-the-Caribbean/165341356853908
Webpage: http://www.prosaf.org (UP & RUNNING)
Telephone: 1-758-724-9991(sue) 1-758-723-6466(vel