No, these aren’t my measurements, but they are numbers that are forever etched in my brain. These were my ages when I had unwanted sexual advances brought up against me. And yes, that is my very careful way of putting it because it’s still hard to call it what it really is.
One in three…
I’m not sure if this is a false sense of bravado brought on by the fact that I’m currently in pre-production for a film about sex trafficking in Jamaica. Or if it’s due me forcing myself to sit through the video for “Til it Happens to You by Lady Gaga… five times… or if it’s because I’ve just finished watching the documentary “The Hunting Ground” and seen how two college girls’ survivor stories changed the USA. Whichever it is, I sincerely hope that by tomorrow when people start reading this I won’t be overcome with fear, delete it and pretend as if it never happened.
It happened. Three times. By three different people. Stranger Danger was not my story, and this realisation is what struck me the hardest. These were all people I knew and trusted and that didn’t matter. What was more shocking is that I’m 98% sure that two of these three people had little to no idea that what they did was wrong, let alone a crime.
[For clarity – since I am doing this blog – I will not speak of the first incident (which also happened to be the most traumatic and damaging), the second I was forcefully groped in public and the third I was pinned to a bed and held against my will.]
As a girl growing up I got all the talks – don’t go to places with people you don’t know, be careful what you wear on the street, don’t take any drinks from strangers, don’t leave your drink open and come back to it, follow your instincts, don’t take unmarked taxis, don’t be afraid to scream for help…
I didn’t grow up with boys but I wonder if they get a similar talk and similar warnings? Personally, I’m sick of how barely reactive we are to issues of sexual assault and abuse. I’m also really tired of females being blamed and being badgered with questions like “What were you wearing?” “Were you drunk?” If our clothes were the issue 1. Men wouldn’t be raped and 2. Women who live in places that requires them to be covered from head to toe also wouldn’t have an issue with rape.
It’s time we start having conferences for rape prevention specifically designed for men. It should be just decent behaviour to know not to invade someone’s intimate space unless you’re invited, everybody should know that. But when we are constantly being bombarded with sex-this and sex-that, something is bound to stick the wrong way. Now, don’t misunderstand me, in NO WAY am I excusing what these men/boys did, I’m simply saying there is a huge piece of the puzzle that we are missing and are refusing to acknowledge.
It’s time to change the conversation and remove the spotlight from the victims. The only thing we should be highlighting about the victims is becoming survivors and healing from the trauma.
Healing is possible, but it’s gradual, painful and continuous. Some days it feels like you take one step forward and fifty steps back, but the key is to keep pressing forward. I’m not at the same place I was ten years ago and that’s because of a combination of spirituality (God cares…), intense therapy, medication and an amazing support team. Your combination may be different but I need you to know IT WILL GET BETTER. Yes, it will take some time, yes there will be times when you feel like there’s no progress, sometimes you’ll wonder if you will ever not be “damaged”.
I just need you to know more than anything that there is hope. You can overcome and you will live an amazing, fulfilling life.
Take care of you. You’re not a victim, you’re a survivor.
Below are the links to a few websites that were resourceful to me:
https://www.rainn.org/ (mostly useful for those in the US)
http://www.pandys.org/ – literally saved my life a few times.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to me. I’m happy to just be a listening ear.