I use the term survivor because I rose above what has happened to me and became stronger.
I am a sexual assault survivor. I use the term survivor because I have risen above what has happened to me and became stronger. You may wonder why I am sharing this with you. All too often people are afraid to come forward to say what has happened to them because we get blamed for it.
It was the way we were acting; what we were wearing; we could’ve just run away or fought back. The truth is, none of that is true. It’s not what we wear or how we act. The only thing that causes sexual assault is the person who believes they are entitled to use another person’s body. Even when we say no or try and push them away, they believe they have a right to get what they want. Even if we freeze or begin to cry, they ignore the signs and focus on their urges.
The only thing that causes sexual assault is the perpetrator.
Even when we come forward, we have to fight through the stigma, through the justice system, through the anxiety, depression, and countless other effects we are left with. After the sexual assault, we don’t get to rest. We have to keep fighting to get better and keep fighting to find some normalcy in our lives, in our own bodies again. All of this fighting wears us down and exhausts us. It can make us lash out or hide. We can get lost in all of the emotions and thoughts that are whirling around in our brain. All of the light around us becomes dark, and it is hard to see, hard to find the way forward.
But we can’t lose ourselves, or they win.
The truth is, you are never the same person afterward. Your body feels different. It has been violated and can make you feel dirty, used, or shameful. You have to learn how to love and accept your body again. Our minds become different. We are constantly aware that this can happen to us again, and are always on the lookout to make sure it doesn’t. We look for any little signs that may warn us of danger. And when we see them, we are instantly reminded of what happened and thrown back into the assault. Our emotions are everywhere. We can be numb or feel everything at once. We have so many ups and downs, or just constant downs that the fight seems endless. Who we were has been destroyed.
We need to rise from the ashes of our former selves and become warriors to survive our traumas.
When we can finally overcome everything that has happened and begin to heal, we see how strong and resilient we really are. This story is ours, not theirs. We have been through hell and back and have lived to tell the story. So, screw those who try and silence us, shame us, blame us. We have been fighting longer and harder than they have and we will win. We don’t need to feel ashamed or hide.
We need to be who we have become.
Strong. Warriors. Survivors.
In Ontario, May is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month to bring attention to the devastating impact sexual assault has on survivors. It is also a time to discuss how to prevent this violence from happening and how we can better support survivors. There is still a long way to go to end the stigma of being a sexual assault survivor and to help survivors have easy access to much needed services such as counselling, proper medical attention, and legal support. You can help raise awareness by wearing purple and having these conversations about how to support survivors and stop the violence.
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