When you’re in a group of people, or on a date, or talking with coworkers, no one would ever be embarrassed or ashamed to say, “Yeah, I’ve been robbed before.” No one would be embarrassed to say, “Some bastard stole my identity once.” No one would ever be embarrassed to say they’ve been a victim of [Insert Random Crime Here].
But if you’ve been a victim of rape or sexual assault or even domestic violence, it’s somehow different for you to say, “Oh yeah, I’ve been raped before.” It’s different for you to say, “I had an ex that used to hit me/abuse me.” Other people would become uncomfortable. They might look at you differently. They may think about you differently. You might feel ashamed or embarrassed or awful or exposed.
And it shouldn’t be that way. No one should have to be ashamed to be a victim of one of those crimes. Victims of other crimes aren’t shamed. They’re not afraid to tell people about what happened to them. So why should we have to be afraid to tell people what happened to us?
The answer is that we shouldn’t. We should be able to tell someone when we’re on a first date that we were a victim of domestic violence or rape and not have them look at us any differently and simply say, “That must have been awful. I’m so sorry you had to experience that.” We should be able to casually mention in the break room that we’ve been sexually assaulted and have another coworker say, “Me too,” while all the others empathize and don’t think to themselves that we never should have shared that. We should be able to say to a group of friends or acquaintances that we’ve been raped before without being asked where we were, what time it was, what we were wearing, if we were drunk, or if we were alone.
Of course, there is a time and a place for revelations of this sort, but my argument is that it shouldn’t be any different than the revelation that your house was broken into or you were in a hit-and-run accident or your brother-in-law punched you in the face. The fact that it is is a testament to how much work still needs to be done.
And so today I broke my silence to everyone I know by posting this as my Facebook status:
I am a survivor of domestic violence. I am a survivor of rape. I am not ashamed of these things. Our silence perpetuates the shame that surrounds being a victim of these crimes. This is for everyone else that has been a victim, too, so you know that you’re not alone and should not be ashamed and are braver than you know.
I’m done keeping silent.