“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.” – C.S. Lewis
There are some people out there who will never understand what it’s like to be a female, to be treated as an object, disposable, and used. No exaggerations. They’ll never understand our daily struggles from the most mundane things like being extra wary on our walk home, to the extreme cases like rape and sexual violence.
And I hope they’ll never experience what it’s like, but I hope more people will understand.
2017’s boom of the #metoo movement bought to light how prolific sexual violence is, how many people are affected, how many people suffer in silence and how little is done to help the healing, to fix our rape culture and to stand by those who suffer the most in our societies. The massive movement highlighted the abuse that takes place within the most influential and powerful circles which hit home just how vulnerable we all are to men, their power and violence.
It proved once again how sexual violence, abuse and rape knows no boundaries, classes, cliques, race or ages.
Then came 2018’s hearing of Brett Kavanaugh and Dr Christine Blasley Ford which took another toll on the hurt we all feel as women in a society that fails to keep us safe, that fails to hear us and that fails to even stand by us.
The social media trends that followed were both incredibly inspiring and incredibly heart breaking. I could barely sleep that first night of the Kavanaugh hearings. I watched as millions of men and women took to their social media platforms, using their voices to tell their stories and showing support for the horrible ordeal that Ford was put through.
#ibelieveher #whyididntreport and #metoo all became top trends.
Fast forward to today; 19th January 2019. The King of R&B is under criminal investigation after a docuseries brought together the survivors of R Kelly’s 30 year-long abusive horror stories. People were once again taking to social media to make a stand and highlighting one of the worst issues we have in modern day society.
Millions of men and women coming forward and telling their stories of rape, abuse and sexual violence.
Millions of men and women coming forward with millions of reasons why their stories went unreported.
And then millions of men and women who are still silently healing and hurting, who can’t find the right words and are still figuring out or moving on from their stories. Millions just like me.
These movements and trends are one of the positive and best things that have come out of 21st century technology. And unlike the feelings of isolation and shame that sexual violence brings, the trends and sense of community from social media instead brings us together. It gives comfort, support and the bravery needed to tell your story and bring you one step closer to dealing with it. To healing from it. Which is why, although it’s taken me more than 6 months of writing, re-editing and brave moments, I’m feeling braver and able to talk about my own experiences.
Today, I feel ready to say that I’m with her, I believe her, and me too. I’m one of the statistics that didn’t report it, and it’s something that has stayed with me heavily ever since.
And like millions of others, there were and still are so many reasons why I felt like I couldn’t report it.
I’m a girl who stands up for others in acts like this. I preach and research and even wrote my whole dissertation about injustices against girls.
But when it happened to me, I did nothing.
I lost my voice then so much more.
It felt like something from a movie.
Like something you’d seen a hundred times before.
You’re watching clips of someone doing something to your body,
in your safe space, and you have no control because you’re barely conscious.
He leaves you and the scene.
You wake up the next morning sore and in autopilot.
Your body just walks straight to the shower and you clean.
You scrub your skin and you brush every bit of your mouth.
You feel dirty.
And you hurt for days.
And you cry.
Then you get on with your life.
Because it’s not like real-life, and it couldn’t have happened to you.
But, as dramatic as it sounds, it happened just like that.
And it’s so easy, to try and brush it to the side. Something so common.
Because what’s the point in fighting?
There’s not enough help. There’s victim blaming. There’s court. And police. And proof. And no support. It’s scary, and costly, and lengthy, and in many cases, just one word against the other.
Then there’s feelings of shame, embarrassment and loneliness, and the feelings from the aftermath which are so much worse than the feelings of the actual incident. Feeling dirty, used and completely unworthy.
Because of society, and a boy, and the behaviours we allow and brush to the side. And all of this makes me feel angrier at society and myself than at him.
More than one year later, and after yet another horrific incident, I’m not sure how much stronger I feel. But I’m still angry and I want change. And that makes me want to fight harder.
63% of sexual assaults will never be reported to the police. And out of 1000 rapes, 994 abusers will walk free.
How is abuse against women so rampant in every society around the world? How is it one of the only things that are showing no signs of improvement?! How are we failing so many girls and women around the world every single day? Mocking our basic human rights of safety and love.
I don’t want it to define me, ever. I don’t want people to see me and think of these incidents. I don’t want to be a victim because I’m so much more than what happened them nights. That’s not what this is about.
And for so many of us, it’s not simply about justice or seeking revenge. It’s not about getting even. It’s about building a future and creating the change needed to ensure that society can keep our women and girls safe from abuse, rape and violence.
We need better ways and more options for reporting and supporting. Even now, I don’t believe the people from my incidents should be locked away. I think they, like many others, need rehabilitation and restoration because simply locking these people away will not solve this social and global epidemic or stop the cycles of abuse.
We shouldn’t be afraid about making conversation around these topics and instead teaching our young men and women what is right and what is wrong. We need to teach and learn to recognise the stages of abuse, what our options are when it comes to abuse and to create a safe space where we can have real conversations about it all with our abusers, with a support system, with our communities and even with ourselves. We need to call it out before it happens, when it happens and keep that conversation going if there is an after.
In times surrounding these events and movements, know that these women will be rethinking and reliving some of their darkest times, many in silence and many still healing. Look at the women in your lives and love them hard, support them and tell them “I believe you”.
I’m so proud and grateful for every single person who has come forward, for every #metoo, #ibelieveher and #whyididintreport for their bravery, power, support, and inspiration. For anyone struggling, know you’re not alone, you’re worthy, you are loved and you’ll have better days. The actions of someone else is not your fault.
For anyone affected or for anyone who wants to talk, you can message me privately on here, on my Instagram @Vanishamay or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you all find some happiness, strength and courage today,
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