Many have seen the stereotypical masked rapist lurking in the bushes either on TV or in movies. While this does occur, it is more common, as in over 70%, that the offender was someone the victim already knew or was acquainted with. This knowledge itself is empowering, because no matter the already established relationship with another person, feelings of uneasiness and becoming uncomfortable in a certain situation are something to actively pay attention to. Especially if these situations occur often and/or if brought up in discussion are nonchalantly brushed off by the offending party.
For those who are survivors of sexual assault, life afterwards can be very difficult the assault may have put their life on hold but the world keeps moving. Emotionally it can take a severe toll. They are at higher risk for depression, drug and alcohol abuse. As well as, more likely to self-harm and/or contemplate/attempt suicide. Yet it's not only on an emotional level that can be difficult but living through their day to day lives. Many things that most take for granted like walking into a crowded bar to meet friends or meeting new people without much worry or concern are daunting tasks for some survivors. The thought is that every stranger could be a potential danger, or that everyone is staring at them. Both of which are symptoms of Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that results from experiencing a traumatic event. Symptoms include;
- Reliving the event in various ways, either through flashbacks, memories, nightmares etc.
- Avoidance or “numbing” oneself to feelings as if nothing bothers them, feeling detached, not remembering particular parts of the event etc.
- Hyper-vigilance or feeling more aware, an exaggerated response to things that are startling, trouble falling or staying asleep,Feeling ones heart beat in ones chest, headaches etc.
While PTSD is common among survivors many do not seek help or support because of the shame and stigma still attached with being a survivor of sexual assault. The message that still rings the loudest is one of “If you were more careful, modest, professional, etc. than this wouldn't have happened to you.” One message that I found alarming was “Well did you say no?” Both of these messages and many others like them, all of which are lies, are what is allowing this type of assault to continue. This is saying to the offenders that it is “okay” for them to treat others in a disrespectful way because the victim may have fit a certain category.
It is not okay and while April may be the designated month of awareness, this battle must continue every day even after these thirty days are through. It is imperative that the lies be crushed and the survivors become empowered to not only take their lives back but be able to share their experience and knowledge so that others never have to face a life with the label of “victim” attached to them.
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault it is NOT your fault and there are resources available to help: