Writing publicly is a scary thing. This is especially true of first-person narrative. Putting yourself out there. Myself, I dived into the blogging deep end.

My first real post was about being shoved face down into a pillow. Sexual assault. And this was before I had told my family or friends directly about what had happened years before. I had told a total of one single soul about it. When I first told the world of my story, shying away from the word rape, I was mighty nervous.

I wrote about my shame, my guilt, my non-reporting and the added guilt from that major lack of action. What I had done was to look him up online; I knew he was a Naval officer from Florida and a few other details. In his profile picture, he was eating a large hoagie sandwich pointed towards the camera. That hoagie I now connect loosely to Bill Cosby. I acknowledge that is odd of me to do. I still associate that hoagie with unrelenting tears.

In any case, one day years ago after stalking his profile for awhile, I intentionally let myself move on. I stopped stopping at his page cold turkey. I shut it out. Hoagie included. Even made the difficult decision to forget his name.

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). And every year since I was assaulted, I have paid close attention to April, reflecting personally and trying to grow in my own awareness and supporting others.

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I should have paid more attention before my own assault, but I didn’t. Not until it happened to me. You are so right, Lady Gaga.

One’s family are often the hardest to tell. My friends who are spoken word artists and dancers have shared with me that they expressed their stories artistically and publicly before approaching the subject with those closest to them. It was the same for me. My parents first learned about this thing I was once so ashamed of by reading my blog. It turned out that several family and friends were inspired by my act to tell their own stories. I was far from alone in being a survivor, I was just the only one in the family to bring their story to a public space.

 

Nearly 1 in 5 women, and1 in 71 men, in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives (Black et al., 2011).

Forms of sexual violence include • Rape or sexual assault • Child sexual assault and incest • Sexual assault by a person’s spouse or partner • Unwanted sexual contact/touching • Sexual harassment • Sexual exploitation and trafficking • Exposing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent • Masturbating in public • Watching someone in private acts without their knowledge or permission

Less than 2% of stories are false reports. And prevention is possible.

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All of us have a role to play in preventing sexual assault. We can:

  • Intervene to stop concerning behavior
  • Promote and model healthy attitudes and relationships
  • Share our own stories openly with family and friends
  • Believe survivors and help them in finding physical, mental, social, and legal support
  • Create and strengthen policies to promote safety
  • Assess and address the risks (to ourselves and others) in our environments (homes, clubs, campus parties, religious schools and institutions, businesses, military bases, post-conflict areas, Las Vegas, SnapChat, Tinder…)
  • Educate adolescents and young adults in how to combat rape culture and unhealthy sexual behaviors
  • Hold those who harm others (including our sons, uncles, nephews, fathers, aunts, sisters) accountable
  • Ensure that they get appropriate help
  • Promote positive messages and behaviors through marketing campaigns and advertising content
  • Invest funding to make sexual violence prevention a social responsibility priority
  • Use tweets, posts, and status updates to spread the word about Tuesday, April 5th, the national day for action.
  • Visit the SAAM blog for campaign updates and prevention resources: www.nsvrc.org/blogs/saam
  • Update online profiles or websites with a SAAM background, teal ribbon, or logo.

My start to blogging was surely intense. Sharing my stories publicly has been easier ever since. Life has also been easier in some ways since lightening that particular, loaded story that I now realize had been weighing me down. Life in my own skin is now more real (once I had shed that guarded surface) and life by a partner’s side is possible now that I can connect (once I had allowed for my nerves to truly carry by lifeblood/energy in and out). I can now see how writing about sexual assault made my life better. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done, but I would never have wished I had done otherwise.

So, now is the end of March and we have the beauty of Easter, Purim, Holla Mohalla, Nowruz… but less than a week before April begins. This post is meant to give everyone a running start into making Sexual Assault Awareness Month a beautiful thing. Spring renewal. Opening up our narrative like a blossom. This April, let the showers wash away guilt, shame, fear. Share what you have to share. Share this if you agree.

 

 

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