*Trigger warning: sexual violence.
Let me start this article/rant on a positive note. Thanks to the #metoo movement and powerful television shows and documentaries centered around sexual assault, we as a society have made great strides. More and more people are speaking up about being assaulted, and more awareness is being created. All this fighting back wasn't occurring when I first came out with my assault back in 2009, but I'm grateful to see it now as a survivor.
But with every step forward, there's always a step or two backwards. Enter politics. With President Trump being the face of our country, he has said on record that he enjoys grabbing women "by the p-ssy", without consent, years before the election (2005). This leaked confession seemed to have divided the nation: some were disgusted, others chalked it up to it being "locker room talk" that happened "long ago."
2005 was 13 years ago, which may feel like a long time ago, but it probably feels like yesterday to the ladies he assaulted. I imagine the wounds are as fresh as ever, now that their experiences have been put on public display and half-heartedly apologized (if you can even call it that) by Trump.
As I type this article, Bill Cosby is now serving three to ten years in prison. His abuse allegations stem all the way back to 1965. Why didn't the first victim report it then? In the 1960's, sexual violence was very taboo; nobody talked about it. Abuse in general was taboo, it was seen as the norm, a form of discipline, your shame. This was also the era where dressing modestly would avoid "triggering men's sexual desires" ( https://www.newsweek.com/should-we-blame-promiscui... ) . From a male dominated decade, to victim blaming galore, it really shouldn't shock anyone why nobody in the 60's said "me too."
It's 2018, 50 some years later, and some of these old habits leftover from the 60's are still hard to kill. Victim shaming is still, and is likely, to always be a thing: "Why didn't you report it?" "Why didn't you fight back?" "Why did you lead them on?" "This will ruin their life." "It was ten years ago, it's the past."
My sexual abuse stole my childhood, from age six to age 15. I spoke up at 15, months after the last assault happened. I wasn't going to report it at first, because I didn't want to go through a trial, I didn't want to tell strangers what had happened to me. But I knew it was the only way to stop him from hurting another child. It's been almost ten years since the final assault, but I live with the pain every day. I live with the anxiety, the depression, the post-traumatic stress, the fear of intimacy, the fear of being assaulted again. But because I reported it, I must be okay. I did the right thing (sarcasm).
Out of 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators walk free. Perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to be incarcerated than any other criminal ( https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-... ). That small number that do report their assault endure more trauma: rape kits, lie detector tests, public shaming, testifying, harassment, nightmares, flashbacks, and in most cases, a "not guilty" verdict. If you speak up, you're probably lying. If you waited years to speak up, it doesn't matter. Damn if we do, damn if we don't.
I do believe time is a wonderful healer, but it doesn't change what happened. I wish I wasn't abused, but there's nothing that can be done to delete it, and I've accepted that, finding ways to live with it, make my present and future better than my past. Unless someone invents a time machine, the past can't be changed, assaults can't be undid. Sexual assaults are life altering events that will always be with us. I don't know who I am without my assault or what life would've been like had it not happened. I was assaulted, no matter how long ago it was. I was assaulted, even if I did report it. I was assaulted, even if my abuser served a light sentence. I was assaulted, even if it was nine years ago.
In the words of Lady Gaga, a fellow sexual assault survivor, "'Till it happens to you, you don't know how I feel."
National Sexual Assault Hotline, available 24 hours: