On April 2, 2017, I opened up about my sexual assault, and while I know everyone who applauded my bravery and courage in doing so had the best intentions—I couldn’t disagree more.
I am not brave for speaking up about something that, according to a Department of Justice survey published in 2015, occurs every 98 seconds in America. Every. Ninety. Eight. Seconds.
Why am I considered brave for speaking up about something that affects hundreds of thousands of people every year? Because of how victims are treated. It’s far too common for a victim to come forward and be beaten down by their community, their peers and even their families. That’s on the off-chance that someone does come forward. It is estimated that over 96% of sexual predators will walk free from their attack, whether that’s due to a survivor’s inability to come forward or to the broken justice system that far too often favors the predator.
I shouldn’t be praised for publically being what so many are in private: a survivor. I am simply a drop in the bucket that I hope to see spill out and wash away our current rape culture.
And that bucket can start to spill out with us. With every single person who saw my video and immediately wanted to congratulate me to stop. Stop in that moment and realize how many people, predominantly women, are in your life that are doing the same thing in their own head. They’re going over their sexual assault and hoping someone could tell them that they’re brave. Brave for continuing with their life in a world that belittles their assault. Brave for attempting to be a sexual person in spite of their trauma. Brave for not jumping in fear when a man walks by them at night. Brave for walking at night even when they do jump.
Holding me up on a pedestal for my openness simultaneously pushes every survivor down who isn’t able to be open about their attack. So, let’s all do our part to alleviate the pain, suffering and backlash each person who has ever been sexually assaulted feels. Whether it was one time or a hundred times. Whether it was being groped or being raped. There are countless people who have gone through what I’ve gone through, in their own way. And I think every single one of them has the same amount of courage I’ll ever have.
My original video discussing my sexual assault can be seen here.
For more information on sexual assault, please visit www.rainn.org.
For those in need, the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline is open 24/7 and can be reached at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).