In light of a recent news story (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/03/emma-sulkowicz-mattress-rape-columbia-university_n_5755612.html) that’s been circulating on social media, I feel compelled to share a story of my own.
While pro-women’s rights and feminist articles and statements are prevalent online, sexual assault and rape happen everyday regardless of background and circumstance. On one hand, women are encouraged to speak out and support each other while on the other hand denial and victim-blame are still the harsh reality. Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student in the linked article is a rarity in that she was brave enough to actually report the atrocity that happened to her.
It is nearly impossible to know how many rapes and assaults occur because most go unreported. Why? For a variety of reasons. I have been assaulted and raped, and by more than one man. Have I reported anything? Never. Being assaulted eats at you from the inside out. Personally, I went into shock after the incidents, told no one and then inadvertently, thoughts of what happened went away. Even though thoughts of what happened went away, I was an oscillating mess of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Many months after, I had nightmares and thoughts of what happened would hit me out of the blue. After revealing what happened to a close friend, I decided I needed to go to therapy.
My therapist helped me sort through what happened in a way that worked for me and I do think I’ve recovered. I have only told my whole story to three people and live my life happily yet still feel as if there is a chunk out of my heart. Support groups for rape victims have proved impossible to find, at least in my little corner of the world. What helps me most is writing poems and talking out my thoughts on issues relating to assault in our society.
Back to a question I posed earlier. Why do assaults go unreported? These reasons are hard to explain and differ based on the individual. After a year and a half, I feel more able to sort out my reasons which include the following:
- Because I didn’t think they’d believe me.
- Because I didn’t think they’d take it seriously.
- Because he was my boyfriend.
- Because I thought they’d blame me.
- Because they’d say I had it coming. Had it coming because I enjoy sex and have a open attitude about it.
- Because I was scared.
- Because I felt ashamed.
- Because, in part, I blamed myself.
- Because I was afraid of what would happen to him.
- Because I didn’t want our mutual friends to know.
- Because I made excuses for his actions.
- Because I felt bad for him.
- Because I felt lost.
Even if you don’t report what happened to you, tell someone you trust. Someone who will keep your confidence. Don’t hold it in. Let yourself have as healthy a release as possible. Don’t let what happened to you make you feel permanently broken and unwanted. Let yourself heal. Even though it may feel like a chunk is missing, you are still wholey and entirely yourself.
Raise awareness. Offer support. Find your strength.
Emma, you’re a hero in my book. Fight on.