A Message to Survivors:
So often we feel silenced, suffocated by the secrets we keep. In a time of rapidly changing views on sexual assault, I feel we have gone backwards. The Kavanaugh Hearings were a mudslide down the hill of progress, and like many others, I was outraged.
As the world bickered on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter about the allegations and the credibility of both parties, we saw the worst in people. Disgust, hatred, and anger were directed towards Dr. Ford for doing nothing but coming forward, triggering survivors all over the country. The lack of respect and empathy towards her and her accounts rippled through our society. My husband worked extra hours on the local rape crisis center’s hotline. They were overloaded with calls.
We live in a time when the victim’s voice is ignored. Disclosures of abuse are often followed with questions that begin with, “but why..”.
“But why would they do that to you?” (As if you know the logical reason)
“But why are you coming forward so soon/late?” (As if there is a better time)
“But why were you wearing that/walking there/dating them?” (As if it was your fault)
“But why don’t you remember more details?” (As if the memory of the trauma isn’t enough)
These questions are the strands of yarn that silence us, binding our words to our bodies.
Many people didn’t believe Dr. Ford’s story because of the gaps within it. I believed her because of them. I was first sexually assaulted in the Spring of 2010. I think. Honestly, I don’t automatically recall the year or the month or even the season. The video that replays in my mind excludes those details. I can’t remember how I had gotten to his house, who else was home, what time of day it was, what I was wearing,...nothing. But I remember what happened. And I remember who did it. Those two things I will never forget. (One might wonder if Dr. Ford had made up her story entirely, why would she not provide false details as well?) You don’t have to have the answers to those questions. They will be asked, probably, but don’t let them block your voice if you’re ready to say something.
I never thought that a day would pass where I wasn’t affected by the things that were done to me. I felt those memories and their associated panic at all times. I’m happy to say that that is no longer the case for me. Every now and then a memory or a thought will resurface, but it won’t affect me. They pass by like any other thought. It’s a tremendous feeling to have come so far. To know that actually healing, and not just coping, is possible.
In creating these images, I want survivors to know that their response to their experiences is valid. No matter where you are in the healing process, know that it is okay. Please also know that there is hope. You have a future and not only a past. The path you are on is personal, but there are many others walking alongside you. For me, speaking out was a huge part of my healing process. That might not be the case for you and your situation, and that’s alright. But you can speak out if you want to. You will be believed, and you will be supported.