Hello! If you all are visiting my site from Craig and Katy’s project, the Art of Survival, thank you for taking an interest in ending sexual assault. If you have not already, do check out their project about sexual assault during the month of April. We all want the same thing: to bring awareness to sexual assault.
Did you know April is Sexual Assault Awareness month? I didn’t either until Craig reached out to me about sharing my story on the Art of Survival project. In conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness month, I have committed to 30 days of writing about sexual assault. I know this is going to be particularly emotional for me at times, but if I’m quiet, he wins, and the cycle continues with new victims like me.
For years I helped my students, who felt comfortable enough with me to disclose their sexual assault to me, to be brave. I myself was not brave. I was living with all of the self-imposed disappointment, anger, guilt, and anxiety that I told my students not to believe. I let it creep through my mind for years always lurking in the shadows to jump out at any moment. It bothered me not telling my closest friends, who are very dear to me. It was a big secret coloring my daily life.
Then one day, I woke up and asked why I was still beating myself up for something that was not my fault. Many years after I should have, I forgave myself. I forgave myself for being naïve about sexual assault. I forgave myself for letting my guard down. I forgave myself for thinking I should be invincible.
Does anyone see the problem with my thinking? I didn’t then, but I do now. Sexual assault is not the fault of the victim. The outfit the victim wears, the level of intoxication of the victim, and the location of the victim are not causes of sexual assault. A victim being anything or doing anything does not cause sexual assault.
Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.
US Department of Justice
Notice the above definition does not talk about “wrong place, wrong time,” the victim making the assaulter “want him/her so bad,” or the look of the victim. Those are not causes of sexual assault. Sexual assault is the action of one person without the other person’s “yes.” (Note: An intoxicated or otherwise incapacitated “yes” is, in fact, a “no.” If you feel you cannot wait for a real “yes” then you need to re-evaluate yourself and seek counseling. I am not joking.)
Survivors of both stranger rape and acquaintance rape often blame themselves for behaving in a way that encouraged the perpetrator. It’s important to remember that the victim is a never to blame for the actions of a perpetrator.
I am glad people are talking about sexual assault. It should not be a hush topic. We need to keep the monsters in the light and out from under the bed. If we talk about it, victims will find it easier to talk about. They will have the language, know the resources, and know we have their backs. If we don’t talk about it, sexual assault wins.
If you are out there and have experienced a sexual assault, don’t close your doors to yourself. Love yourself. This may be the hardest thing you will do. Heal your emotional pain. It is not your fault, but healing is your responsibility you owe to yourself. You cannot let this rule your life. You are wonderful. You are amazing. You are needed in society.
Don’t let sexual assault rule your life, or that of someone around you. Talk about it. Share with your colleagues. And remember, it is not their fault.