April is sexual assault awareness month. Although it is a topic not too often discussed, strides have been made in attempts to bring survivor’s stories to light, bring justice to those affected, and stop sexual assault from happening altogether. College campuses hold events like “Take Back the Night”, where students silently walk around campus, join hands, and share survivor stories to let those affected know they are loved and supported. Movements like the #MeToo movement has also brought light to this, as its goal has been to make survivors feel heard and understood, and ultimately, to spur change (North, 2o19). States have implemented sexual harassment laws in the workplace, funds like The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund has helped bring justice to over 3,600 survivors, and perpetrators are being sentenced to prison (North, 2019).
While improvements are being made, there is always work to be done in helping this behavior come to an end for good. She Will Speak is proud to present one specific survivor’s story in hopes to do our part in shedding light on this topic as well as spread our love and support to this inspiring woman and beyond.
Can you share a little bit about your experience (as much as you’re comfortable with)?
I was 12 yrs old. My mom and I were visiting my aunt and her new husband in Pennsylvania. My mom and aunt were talking in the bedroom. I was sleeping on the couch in the living room and awoke to my aunt's husband touching me inappropriately while he sat next to me on the couch.
What did you do after this attack?
I immediately jumped up from the couch and ran into the bedroom to tell my mom. I was crying and very upset. I told them to ask John what was the matter with me. My aunt went in to speak with her husband while I spoke to my mother in private. I told my mother everything. She believed me but didn't know how to handle the situation. She told me to keep quiet about it until she could figure out what to do. She also had experienced sexual assault and, in her day, it wasn't talked about. My aunt's husband of course lied, and said I was mistaken and he was just trying to adjust my blanket. Trust me when I say he was NOT doing that.
What are your hopes for the future?
My hopes for the future are for no man/woman, boy or girl to ever have to experience a sexual assault and have to remain quiet about it. Ever.
What are your thoughts on the #MeToo movement?
I am so grateful that women and anyone inflicted are speaking up and not being silent or intimidated anymore! I am grateful for those who are brave to stand up to the predators and show them no more! This is a godsend! I am proud to support the #MeToo movement. It’s a blessing this is finally happening.
What advice, if any, would you give to other survivors?
I want to say, stand strong and believe in yourself and your power. What doesn’t kill us, can make us stronger. I know it has for me. I also think it’s important to learn and grow from the challenges we endure - to let the pain go and move on. Holding on to past pain just brings you down. Don't let this happen. You have a choice. I also encourage survivors to forgive the people who caused this pain, not for them, but for yourself. The only way to heal is to forgive. The people that do these heinous things are very flawed and possibly mentally ill. Leave the past in the past, as it can't hurt you anymore. They can't hurt you anymore. We are stronger, wiser, and smarter. Don't let anyone ever get away with disrespecting you again.
It is stories like these that shake us to the core; to think that these things still go on today, and to think any child or adult would have to experience such an invasion and lack of basic human decency. This is what we fight against, and what we hope to bring justice to. We thank our interviewee for being so open and vulnerable with us and hope her strength is radiated to all those suffering and who have suffered. You’re not alone, and you never will be.