Why I'm Still Going to Post About Sexual Assault and Abuse After April
Today marks the last day of April and the last day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. All month long, it seemed like maybe there was just a little more noise surrounding sexual assault and abuse from places I normally don’t hear any. There were statistics about rape and incest, survivor stories, memes celebrating survivors and warriors, posts telling people what the phone number is for the suicide hotline, posts showing fields of blue pinwheels spinning in the wind erected in solidarity with survivors and a million posts about a show on Netflix called “13 Reasons Why” which graphically depicts two sexual assaults and follows the lead character’s journey to suicide.
Tomorrow, the silence will be unbearable. Everyone will turn their attention to the next “cause du jour.” The posts will dwindle and many of us who live the reality of sexual assault or abuse will go on living our daily lives, struggling with our usual cocktail of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms of anxiety, depression, nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, numbness alternating with hypersensitivity and questions of our self-worth. Many of us will go on with our daily doses of medication and our weekly therapy appointments. Many of us will continue trying to soothe our souls with distractions and slap smiles on our faces so the outside world doesn’t see the pain oozing from every part of our being. Many of us will work and raise our children and be husbands and wives and otherwise resume our place in the world like we do everyday because that’s what we do. We survive.
Except tomorrow, I plan on doing something different. You see, part of my healing journey has been to find my voice and to speak my truth. At first it seemed impossible. The memories were fragmented and I hardly believed myself. But the funny thing about trauma is the memories are stored deep within my body. I don’t even know they are there because my mind shields me like a fortress from them until it thinks I am ready to deal with them. Then slowly, slowly, they creep back into my awareness and the full weight of my truth sinks me to the bottom of a deep dark ocean like an anchor too heavy to move and seemingly impossible to escape.
Slowly, and with the guidance of a trusted mental health professional who can provide me with a bubble of safety, the memories float to the surface of the ocean that is the depths of my soul. They gasp for air as they are met with freedom. And once I share them, their weight feels somewhat lightened. Then I find other ways to speak my truth. Other safe people with whom I can share, who have either been through similar storms or who I know love me unconditionally no matter whether the sun is shining or the dark clouds are looming. I realize the power that was stripped from me can be taken back by sharing my truth, by listening to others share their truths and by becoming an advocate against the trauma that robbed me of myself in the first place.
So tomorrow, I will continue posting about sexual assault and sexual abuse. And I will do so the next day and the next day and every day for the rest of my life. I will do so not because I want your sympathy, not because I want to alienate you, not because you don’t already know it exists. I will do so because every man, woman and child who has and will be affected by this deserves it. They deserve to be heard. Until this is no longer an epidemic, I will speak. I will advocate for body safety and sex education for children. I will encourage survivors to seek mental health care because there is no shame in doing so and because the only way to heal this wound isn’t by “getting over it,” “forgetting about it” or “forgiving and moving on.” No. The only way to heal is through connection. And I will connect with as many of you as I can in as many ways as I can, to not only heal myself, but to start a ripple in the ocean of the world and awaken us all. Who is with me?
If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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Thinkstock photo via Stefana Lapadat.