why i speak up about my sexual assault & abuse
On September 18, 2013, BuzzFeed published “27 Survivors Of Sexual Assault Quoting The People Who Attacked Them,” an article based on the photographic work of Grace Brown, the founder of Project Unbreakable. An online photography project that aimed to “encourage the act of healing through art,” Project Unbreakable exploded online as it exposed a demand for sexual assault awareness. The critical need for this type of advocacy work led the BuzzFeed article to be viewed by over 2.5 million readers.
I am one of the 27 survivors quoted.
Two and half million people have read the words my abuser said before molesting me. Two and half million people have read the words my date rapist said after he finished.
But 2.5 million people have not read the words that reveal why I choose to be photographed or speak up. And 2.5 million people have not read the words that reveal how survivors of violence, sexual assault and trauma become alchemists — transmuting pain into power.
I was first exposed to Project Unbreakable in 2011. At that point in my life, I was exiting an abusive relationship and I did not identify myself as a rape victim or rape survivor. I didn’t identify because I could not grasp the concept of sexual assault.
My body always knew my sexual experiences were not consensual. The signs were there in the bruises, the blood and the deep pain I felt inside. The pain of emptiness, hollowness and deadness.
But I wanted to believe, like many of us who are abused, that we are not being abused. That it is not rape, sexual assault or any form of abuse. Because to admit someone we love is hurting us is a type of heartbreak no words can define. It is a heartbreak that permeates the entire body, leaving you shaking, heaving, hollow and hungry.
None of the men who raped me attacked me in a midnight black-back alley while I was alone and vulnerable walking home. None of the men who raped me fulfilled the stereotype of a rapist or rape that patriarchal society sells us.
These stereotypes need to be dismantled, now more than ever.
The statistical information is there to put these stereotypes to rest. We know 75 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, while 28 percent are committed by a stranger; however, the myths continue because bringing light to the truth would expose both patriarchy and its relation to perpetuating rape culture.
Patriarchy is a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are excluded. A system where we are taught to search for external gratification instead of feeling our own internal sensations. A system that excludes the feminine and distorts the masculine. All of which I believe contributes to sexual, physical and emotional violence. Sexual assault is perpetrated by those who embody patriarchal values.