Sexual Assault. Do you have to go through it to care about it?
This question always arises for me every April. I have a lot of friends who know someone with autism, and thus, support Autism Awareness month, which also happens to be April. This year, I see that friends who know someone who’ve benefited from an organ transplant supporting organ donation. April is also Organ Donation Awareness month. What simultaneously inspires and disheartens me is the fact that these people know someone who have been through these things, so they support these causes. Every one of these people, and the other 400 people on my Facebook page, know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted: me. And yet, the only people I see supporting this cause are the people who have themselves lived through such violence.
I think this is a huge problem in our culture. “As long as I haven’t been raped, then who cares?” Right? Why do I continuously find that the only people driven to stop sexual violence are those who have personally lived through it? Is it really that hard to imagine how awful it is if you haven’t experienced it? Do you really not care that much about the women and men in your life who have been victimized by sexual predators?
I think a lot of it has to do with the silence surrounding the issue, because it sure as hell isn’t the lack of prevalence. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18. (Finkelhor, David, et al. “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors.”) Are you really going to tell me that you don’t know at least 4 women or 6 men?
No, a lot of it has to do with our silence around the issue. Anything sexual is taboo. You know, as long as it isn’t sexual imagery in time square, music videos, magazines, television, movies, or books. From Fifty Shades of Grey to Abercrombie ads, sexuality is everywhere. However, when it comes to sexual violence, we best not talk about it. Virgin ears, and all.
Or maybe it is the violence part of it. Although, I recently saw Olympus has Fallen, and it suggests Americans have an endless thirst for blood. What’s a movie without a good knife through the head, eh?
Nah, it is just the careful combination of sexual and violence that sends people fleeing in a frenzy.
Let me be frank, you know someone, nay, you know A LOT of someones who have been sexually assaulted in their lives. Not convinced? Start asking around. Your eyes might just open. It is likely that your between your daughter, sister, best friend, mother, aunt, or cousin, at least one has been sexually assaulted.
What then is our problem with talking about it?
I venture to guess that this culture of victim-baming has a lot to do with it. As most recently displayed in the Steubenville rape case, which has brought out the Ugly and the Brave around the issue of victim-blaming. Keep her full of shame = Keep her silent = Let’s just pretend this stuff never happens = No one cares about Sexual Assault Awareness month, except for survivors of sexual assault.
Maybe I am being blunt, but I am personally insulted by the lack of interest around the issue. And I expect a few more people to be displaying their teal ribbons after today.
Let me tell you, from personal experience, about the residual effects of trauma. After it happened, I could barely sleep. I stayed awake, alarmed by any small sound in the night. I never felt safe. I have yet to be able to trust men. I have flashbacks, that feel as though I am reliving the trauma over again. Therefore, I relive it over and over again. My startle reflex is incredibly sensitive. When I went to see Olympus has Fallen, I was jerking repeatedly, startled by the loud sounds. Even a shadow on my computer screen makes me jump. Whenever I am put into a vulnerable situation, I get disoriented and overwhelmed. My pupils dilate, and I become sensitive to sounds. Walking to my car in a parking lot at night, for example. I avoid situations which might trigger these effects, such as: being around men, being by myself outside, being intimate with someone, or alone at night. It has been years, and I am still working to undo the harm done.
I’m not saying I am not living a fulfilling life. What I am saying is that it has taken years of hard work to get to where I can. And what I want to impress upon you is that my case is lucky. I’ve had a lot of resources that most people never have. Such violence haunts a lot of people till the day they die. It breaks their souls. And mending a soul isn’t easy. And even when mended, there will always be scars.
That is all I’m trying to say. Sexual violence is an issue worth caring about.
I see a lot of blogs doing years in review. I would do that for you, but I feel that, although I have learned a lot and accomplished a lot in 2012, I haven’t done anything exceptionally noteworthy. I was looking back over my year, and what I realized is a year summed up in learning. I have grown a lot this year, through experience and through trial and error.
In the spirit of a new year, I will share my top ten lessons from 2012. I pray that the next year is full of new lessons, exciting growth, solid accomplishments, and exceptional love, for all of us.
Top Ten Lessons I Learned in 2012:
10. Life is worth living. I know this sounds like a pretty basic concept, but it is one I did not believe for a really long time. I felt like every day was just a repeat of the one before, and every situation was going to end grimly. Let me emphasize, every situation will end badly, if that is the intention you place upon it in the beginning. Your world, your life, is what you make of it. Keep deciding that you are cursed, and you will be. Place positive intentions on your day-to-day life, and on your goals, and they will manifest before your very eyes. This year, I took one of my business cards and on it, I wrote down what I want for myself in the next year. I carry it around with me daily, and I believe these things will unfold in my life. You can do the same with a dream board. Take a poster and create what you want out of your next year. Watch it happen. I did this during my hospital stays, and I always conveyed stability, health, balance and love. These things are now ever present in my life. It is like magic. Whatever you put your energy into, you will have.
9. Doing what you’ve dreamed of is worth the experience. I always dreamed of living in California. I was just sure I’d feel at home there. This year, after treatment, I had an opportunity to move out to California. I took the opportunity and have been here since. I love the weather, and having access to beautiful beaches and sunsets. Living here does have its pros and cons, but I am so glad I took the opportunity to come here. I’m acutally living out one of my wildest dreams. How amazing is that? I’ve also learned that this particular city isn’t somewhere I plan on settling down. I wouldn’t have known that, if I had not tried. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here.
8. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but traveling is hard. As a result of living out my dream, I’ve been transplanted a very long distance from a lot of people that I really love. Being here has made me realize how much I truly appreciate these people, but it has also made me realize that I’d like to be closer to them. Traveling is difficult, I’m sure most of us would agree. And expensive. I love my loved ones that much more, but the added cost and stress of being away… is it worth it? I’ll keep you posted. I have, in the meantime, made great friends out here on the left coast. So, I have multiplied my love. That’s always a good thing.
7. Recovery is a lot of work, but I’ve never done anything this important and this necessary before. My sponsor always reminds me that recovery has to come first, before everything else. I know this is true. I cannot have success in work, school, family, or life, if I do not work on the one thing that keeps me stable and keeps me sane. Without recovery, all those other things are irrelevant because they aren’t even possible.
6. Failure may not be an option, but neither is perfection. I’ve always heard the cliché that failure isn’t an option. I think it is this phrase alone that birthed perfectionism. “I’ve got to do it,” turned into, “I’ve got to do it perfectly.” I walk on a thin line between two extremes. Balance is crucial for me. I know I can have an “all or nothing” attitude, and I have to remind myself constantly that an accomplishment is an accomplishment, if I didn’t do it perfectly, at least I did it. We are always our own worst critic. Ease up on yourself a little. Strive to do well, but don’t corner yourself into unforgivable expectations. I see a lot of people in recovery around me either throwing their hands up, or striving to attain the unattainable. Expecting perfection is like driving into a brick wall. It doesn’t matter wether you do it quickly or slowly, eventually, you’ll hit that wall. Eventually, you’ll be devestated by the fact that you messed up. We all mess up, it is inevitable. Learn to brush it off and keep moving.
5. Doors will open, when you’re ready to see what’s on the other side. God knows, timing is everything. If you hold out and have faith, things will turn around and trials will end. You may think that things are impossible, but I am here to tell you that the impossible is possible. Lil’ Kim used to be a hero of mine, and now my music taste is almost completely faith-based. I used to dread waking up in the morning, and now I’m grateful for each new day. This year, I’ve reconnected with several people that I was certain I’d never hear from again. Things change. Doors open. Anything is possible. These things hardly ever happen right away, but they will happen when you are ready for them.
4. Belief makes miracles happen. Did you know that the true power of prayer is in the belief that those prayers will be answered? As I said, the impossible is possible. They key to seeing the impossible unfold before you, is believing that it will. If you ask God for something, but doubt that He will give it to you, don’t expect it. If you hope for something, but believe it could never be, it never will be. The power lies in what you believe. You are manifesting the outcome with your very thoughts and intentions. Just believe.
3. Every cloud has a silver lining. It wasn’t until this year that I realized, what that little old lady with a walker taught me. I stumbled, but I did not fall. BAM! Silver lining. I got in a car accident, but I am safe. BAM! Silver lining. I’m struggling with finances, but I believe everything will work out for my good. BAM! You get the point. Yes, hard stuff happens. Yes, we have our struggles and our trials. Yes, sometimes we fail, or people fail us. But we learn from all of these things. We grow. Every time you lose someone, there opens an opportunity for someone new to come into your life. Every time you struggle, you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and know how to change outcomes for the better next time. Don’t see your losses or failures as a devastation. They are opportunities for new and better things to unfold in your life and your circumstances. Don’t look at what you lost, look at what you gained.
2. The hard moments will pass. A recent campaign that set out to encourage gay youth struggling with bullying and prejudice has gained new ground. The concept behind the campaign? It. Gets. Better. This idea, though it once seemed preposterous to me, is true. It does get better. The hard moments will pass, things will turn around. Sometimes it is a waiting game, but you have to hold strong, because I guarantee you things will start to look up. Look, if anyone knows this, it is me. So, trust me. I waited 28 years for my life to change, and it happened. I finally see this world in a new light. I finally love myself and those around me. I finally want to get as much out of this life as I possibly can. I finally believe. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. The hard moments will pass, and as you get used to watching them come and go, they will get more brief and less intense. The hard moments will be blinks in your vast reel of days, weeks, months, and years of the incredible that your life will become.
1. God is good. I have experienced and accomplished a lot over the past year, all of which, I am completely grateful for. At the end of the day, when my work is done, I thank God that I have had an opportunity to do this work. I have been treated for the traumas I have endured. I have met tons of new people. I have an incredible sponsor and incredible supports. I have experienced new and exciting things that I never could have imagined. I am living in a city that I used to think was only a distant dream. I am living a life that I wasn’t sure even existed. I have everything I could ever want and more. All of this, is because of God. I have done a lot of work, but only because God has provided me the opportunity to. I was in treatment for 5 months, because insurance covered it. If that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is. I worked with some of the best therapists in the country, because God gave me that opportunity. I am grateful for all the support I have received, but none has been more important than that of my God. I could sit here and try to claim this has all been because of my hard work, but that would be a lie. Without God’s timing, ingenuity, and grace, all of my hard work would have been worthless. At the end of my year, as I reflect, I am certain that this is the most important lesson I have learned. When I had no faith, belief, or hope, desperation stepped in and gave me God. God restored my faith, belief, hope. God instilled in me a gratitude for my desperation. God gave me a life worth living, and the desire to live it. Without God, I’m not even sure I would still be here. At the end of the day, I know that everything I learned this year, I learned because of lesson number 1: God is good.