Breaking the Silence

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.

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  1. wardegusNo Gravatar
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m so very proud of you for breaking your silence. You’re fantastic; well done you.

  2. LNo Gravatar
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    It is not fair that you or anybody else had to go through what you went through but as wardegus said very proud and shows the strength that you have for breaking your silence and willing to share your story.

  3. twgNo Gravatar
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I got sexualy assaulted by my ex’s friend. I didn’t tell the ex until we were in the middle of the breakup; it’d happened almost a year prior. I didn’t tell him because it seemed silly on some level that I was bent out of shape over the relatively minor assault, and I thought ex would blame me or think I did something to encourage it. When I told him I was crying and he held me and didn’t blame me at all. I make some jokes at his expense but that was one of his finer hours.

    • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
      Posted June 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad he didn’t blame you. I was sexually assaulted by a friend of my ex’s, too, and when I told my ex, not only did he not believe me, but he remained best friends with him. He was a great guy in a lot of other ways, but I could never really get over that.

      • twgNo Gravatar
        Posted June 27, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        Ugh, that is horrible.

        By the by, I meant to add that you’re awesome for posting that :) <3 and I'm excited for tomorrow night!

  4. RobinNo Gravatar
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Hurrah! *applause* Well said. I think this problem is a combination of factors: judgement about sexual assault and fear of sexual topics being two of them.

    I know people who have felt that they had to keep their abuse a secret. I’ve seen how years of this secret-keeping has eaten away at them.

    Excellently written post.

  5. quizzical pussyNo Gravatar
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your honesty. I’m not brave enough to speak out non-anonymously. Hell, I’m scared to be totally open about my rape even on my anonymous blog. But I really want to be. You inspire me.

  6. Another Suburban MomNo Gravatar
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    I am glad you are speaking out. I hope that you get nothing but love and support going your way and no douchebaggery.

  7. anonymousNo Gravatar
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for having the strength to do this. I recently opened up about being sexually assaulted to people other than a mental health professional for the first time. The reaction was terrible and I’m honestly feeling more traumatized by it than by the memory of the assault.
    The worst part is that the people I told were my parents.

    • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
      Posted June 28, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      I’m so sorry that your parents reacted this way. I kept my first rape a secret from my mother for over a year out of fear that she would react negatively and I am so lucky that she didn’t. She was also supportive this time, and is helping with my medical bills.

      Neither one of us has told my father because we don’t think he could handle it. Here’s to hoping that you find support elsewhere, and that your parents eventually come around.

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