Being a sexual assault survivor gives you membership to a club that you never wanted to join. But it’s not a small club by any means. It’s not a prestigious membership in any way. It’s a club that no one ever wants to belong to, yet nearly 1 in 4 women in this country do. Twenty-five percent of the females in this country are members of this club, and I’ll bet that every single one of them would do anything they could to have their membership revoked. I’m also willing to bet that the membership is much higher than that, yet so many members are unknown.

It’s not like most clubs, though. It’s a club that most members don’t want to admit that they belong to. Because that membership comes with shame and guilt and pain and sadness. The membership also comes with loneliness and hopelessness. Yet, once one member has admitted their membership, other members breathe a sigh of relief and admit theirs, too. And there’s an immediate connection, a solidarity between those members, even if they know nothing else about each other. They can, at the very least, relate to the pain, trauma, guilt, and loneliness that comes with being a survivor of sexual assault.

When one assault survivor speaks out, speaks up, and admits (without shame) that they are a member of that club, it helps a lot of people. It helps non-survivors, especially males (but females, too), realize what a survivor looks like. That they probably know more survivors than they realize. And it helps other survivors realize that they are not alone, that they have an ally, and that they don’t have to be ashamed about what happened to them. As a sexual assault survivor, you have to come out to others if you want to enact any real change in the way you’re viewed. It’s a lot like coming out as queer, when you put it that way, isn’t it?

You realize the solidarity between survivors, the support they have for each other, and the appreciation for the bravery of those that do come out in the comments sections of posts where survivors tell their stories. Because for each one of us that comes out, we become stronger, all of us. Our membership to this club is less shame-filled. It’s still a membership card we’d do anything to give back, but it doesn’t have to define us and it doesn’t have to get the best of  us. We can overcome the stigma. We can own the membership without letting it own us.

And so, to all of you that are bravely telling your stories this month, last month, last year, I want to say thank you. Thank you for me, and for all the other survivors out there. You are amazing, and I’m honored to know you, in whatever capacity that may be.

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  1. JeannineNo Gravatar
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Thank you for telling your story and for being so supportive of other members of this painful club.

  2. Nadia WestNo Gravatar
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Amen. I’m a survivor of both a sexual assault with an object and a rape. I know more women who have been assaulted or raped than not. I’d definitely give anything to have my membership in this club revoked. However, through posts like this we all help other survivors become a little stronger, a little less alone.

  3. PandaDementiaNo Gravatar
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Great post and a big second to that thank you. Yesterday I was lucky enough to have an amazing friend share the story of the incredible blessing that came of her horrific rape. It left me with tears pouring from my eyes but hope in my heart that with the continued openness of women about their rapes, there may be other women who are saved from that fate or that other women will have the courage to confront their rapists as I was too afraid to do.

  4. ConnieNo Gravatar
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I was raped in college – Frat Boy. However I do not define myself as a “victim” or a “survivor”. I see it as something that happened to me, I’ve dealt with it and I have moved on. It does not define me, nor does it rule my life and my relationships with men. If you offered your club membership to me, I would reject it. My life and the person I am is so much more than that one incident. Don’t get me wrong, I know that everything that happens to you in your life affects you in some way, but the way you let it affect you is the key to conquering the bad and embracing the good. Sometimes you just have to let things go in order to be able to heal and move on. I can’t change the past, but I can change how I live my life now and in the future. I refuse to let my past fuck up my present.

    • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
      Posted April 16, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      I’m glad that this way of thinking and overcoming works for you. I would like to point out, though, that I never said that this experience “fucks up” my present. Like you said, it’s something that happened to you. I feel the same way. It’s something that happened to me. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t effect me and they way I see the world. It effects my relationships with and the way I view men, too. That doesn’t mean it’s “fucked me up,” though. Changed me, sure. But we’re all changed by the things we go through in this life, whether they’re positive, negative, or neutral.

    • alphafemmeNo Gravatar
      Posted April 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      Connie – I still have trouble identifying myself as a “survivor” too (and certainly not a “victim”). Those terms feel so … reductionist to me. Like that’s ALL I am, or something. And I agree, too, that it’s just, for better or for worse, a part of me now, a part of my experiences and my past and I can’t imagine being myself without that. It just happened.

      I also think, though, that there’s some sort of understanding I have now that non-”survivors” don’t have. Can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s sorta like how I’m queer, and I have this sort of silent understanding with other queers, and we don’t need words to communicate what we mean (about queer stuff). Like when I’m trying to talk about the topic of sexual violence, I always feel much freer and more relaxed when I’m talking with other “survivors” because I know they know what I’m talking about. Yeah, everybody’s experience is different and what everybody makes of their experience is different … but there’s still something that feels different talking to a fellow “member of the club” than talking to someone who has never experienced sexual assault.


      Thanks Britni — it is so much easier to speak up when a lot of others are speaking up too! It’s like we all have each other’s back.

    • PandaDementiaNo Gravatar
      Posted April 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Good on ya, Connie, for refusing to wallow in self-pity after your rape. I think, though, that you missed the point of this post. It wasn’t a call to commiserate as VICTIMS of a rape, it was a call to come together as SURVIVORS of a rape (or sexual assault) in the hopes that the more we talk about it, the more we can challenge the misconceptions that some have (a friend announced the other day that a guy in her class had announced that most women WANT to be raped), to encourage women who have been afraid of talking about their rape by showing them it’s nothing to be ashamed of or even to get our stories out to women who haven’t been raped so they might take steps to help protect themselves from a potential rapist. Wow, that was one long sentence.
      Regardless, though there are those women who find it difficult to get past their rape, who can’t escape feeling like a victim, who DO have long-term psychological effects, I think most of us are NOT allowing our rapes to rule our lives, we HAVE moved past it and we are NOT letting it fuck up our lives. But don’t you agree that talking about it can do nothing but help?

  5. ImTheMarigoldNo Gravatar
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    Knowing, really knowing, that you aren’t the sole member of this club is a comfort beyond explanation. And I didn’t fully realize it, as the years continued to pass, until I finally joined a support group. Coping with this month, and the group ending next week has forced me (and I’m ok with that) to finally be present in my life and both let my experience in and allow it to eventually pass from me. Soon I hope to stop measuring time in units of Before and After. Thank you for this post, thank you to the commentors, and to the voiceless among us who have yet to come forward. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We’re waiting with open arms.

  6. ElizabethNo Gravatar
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this, and sharing your story. Your (and others’) posts on this subject have really moved me, and in honor of all of your efforts, I’ve decided to attempt a writing project which engages this subject. For this project, I want to gain some perspective, so I am seeking people who would be willing to share their stories with me by answering a questionnaire that I have set up. I have posted more information about the project (with a link to the survey) here, and if you wouldn’t mind posting the link, I would be most grateful.

    I hope that people do begin to realize that they probably know more survivors than they thought they did. Thank you to you all for telling your stories.

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