Are you aware of sexual assault? Cool, I guess we can assign some obscure cancer to April’s awareness goals now.
That was fresh. I know they don’t mean “do you know sexual assault exists?” I think it means “Did you know about these aspects of/resources for/nuances about/prevention tips for/little-known facts about/myths surrounding the cause of the month?”
And the truth is, I made a pact with myself long ago to never be silent about my status as a survivor of sexual assault . . . so I should really be glad for the opportunity to talk about it, particularly now when I haven’t had the chance to write, speak or perform on the topic much in the past year or two.
So, what does this survivor want you to be “aware” of about sexual assault?
1. I personally always have and always will use humor as a coping mechanism. Sometimes it falls flat (see opening sentences, above). Sometimes it makes other people really uncomfortable, which is something I’m always okay with. #sorrynotsorry
2. To every single person who ever told me any variation of “It will be the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night for the rest of your life” . . . this has never been true for me. I hope in the past twenty-five plus years, you’ve realized this is not a good thing to say.
3. I look fine. I act fine. I am fine. But sometimes I still get really scared in ways that I was never scared before I was raped.
4. When my fear is done scaring me, it usually makes me angry (see last line above). The anger aftershocks do seem to be subsiding a little as I approach my third decade (!) of this affecting me for the rest of my life. (That's something else I was warned about.)
5. Now for the most important one: You. Know. Survivors. You have met, live next door to, work with, casually know, intimately know and even love survivors of all manners of sexual assault. You might not know this about them, because there is stigma and pain and suppression and secrecy that survivors of other violent crimes do not experience.
Oh. Right. I guess that's why we need this month, as a free pass for opening up conversation. For permission to normalize talking about sexual assault. Because nearly every time I put myself out there, publicly, as a survivor, I get stealthy requests to talk to another survivor who hasn't told anyone. Who wants to talk, who wants support, who is afraid to ask for it. Who wants to know how to one day move on, to love and enjoy life again.
Silent survivors: I see you, I believe you, I know you exist in droves. I'm always going to be one of the vocal ones until the day things feel safer for you, even if that means continuing to live in silence of your own choosing.