United We Stand
Updated: Nov 16
She was walking home alone. She was at a party with friends. She was sitting at a bar.
What was she wearing?
Was she drinking?
Did she explicitly say the word "no"?
These are the questions society poses around the topic of sexual assault. As a culture, we victim blame instead of placing the blame on the attacker. We don't like holding men accountable for their actions - more specifically, white men. We assume that if a woman speaks up about an assault, she must have been "asking for it". Whether this is through her clothes, state of sobriety, or not uttering the word "no" enough times.
April is sexual assault awareness month. 1 out of 6 women experience sexual assault in their lifetime. And if that statistic doesn't smack you in the face, every 73 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
While there are steps being taken in attempt to combat these glaringly painful statistics, the fact is that we need to teach our sons not to rape instead of teaching our daughters to be afraid. And to do this, we need to preach body equality, as men are brought up with the idea that their pleasure is superior to women's. With this, comes the notion that their bodies and their wants and needs and desires are superior to their female counterparts, and frankly, what women want or don't want doesn't really matter.
And as females, we know there are good guys out there. We know not all of them will disrespect or take advantage of us. But there are too many cases for us women to trust men fully. This is why our mother's buy us pepper spray and keychain alarms to have on us at all times, why we walk with our keys in our hands, why we run with our headphones on low volume, and why we cross the street if we see a male figure behind us.
We are trained from a young age to be afraid. We are trained that there are dangerous people capable of inflicting harm. And while we all pray for a day where women feel safe enough to walk the streets without a self defense weapon, we empathize heavily with those who have survived through any circumstance that has threatened or hurt them physically or mentally.
And while we pray and take steps to create a better tomorrow, my wish is to give these women the power back. My wish is to help cultivate their peace once again and to end these detrimental invasions once and for all.
But until that day, I want to remind any survivors of a few things:
Your story is yours - there is no right or wrong way to feel about your own experience. You may even alternate between feelings day by day or even hour by hour. Let yourself feel whatever emotions arise.
What you feel you need may vary - some days you may want to talk to a friend, some days you may want to lay on the couch and pop in a good movie.
Be patient with yourself - we all heal at different paces and in different ways. Honor yours.
Do what feels right for you - don't let anyone pressure you into anything you don't want to do or aren't ready for. If you don't want to report your attacker, this is your decision to make.
Talk to someone if/when you're ready - many of us process our experiences through verbalizing them. If you don't feel comfortable talking to anyone you know about your situation, consider seeking professional help.
It's not your fault - no matter the circumstance, whatever happened is not your fault. Remove that blame from yourself.
Surround yourself with support - be around people who make you feel safe, heard, and validated.
You are seen. You are heard. You are validated. You are loved.
Hopefully we start to cultivate a society that mirrors this, too.
For those seeking resources, check out the National Sexual Assault Hotline, SACASA, The Recovery Village, RAINN. Herman Law's Child Sex Abuse Guide, and Herman Law's Hiring a Child Sex Abuse Lawyer Guide.