How many people do YOU know that have been sexually assaulted?

Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I have been reached out to by countless people. Many have told me their stories, and let me tell you, I am definitely not alone. What gets me is that there are so many people that are affected by sexual assault/sexual violence, and you never would have known.

The statistics, while debated, speak to the fact that somewhere between 1 in 6 and 1 in 5 females will be victims of rape (or attempted rape) in their lifetime. Now apply that statistic to your family. Roughly 1 out of every 6 women you know in your family will be a victim of rape or a rape attempt.

That statistic just blows my mind.

When I was a Resident Assistant at Grand Valley State University, I had roughly 60 freshmen females on my floor. (The exact number evades me.) Apply that statistic, and roughly 12 of my residents would or already had been victims of rape or attempted rape.

I am in the School of Social Work at Grand Valley State, and my classes are dominated by female students. Most of my Social Work classes have about 30 students in them. Six of my fellow classmates in those classes have been raped.

I feel as if sometimes, we hear these statistics and they just don’t sink in. I was a victim and have read extensively into this social problem and I still am blown away by the statistics. The next time you sit in on a class, or walk around the grocery store, or attend an extended family gathering, count how many females are sitting around you. I promise you, it’ll sink in a lot more when you apply it to real people in your life.

When these people were telling me their personal stories, I was forced to apply this statistic to those around me that were close to me. My friends, family, and people I may have seen once in my life all have reached out to me, told me a little bit of their story, and each time someone came to me, I was stunned by the fact that they were survivors, too. Like, if I had known that so many people in my life could relate to me, I would have talked to them much sooner.

The sad part is that everyone feels that they have to keep quiet their experiences with rape. We all hide it, when in reality, we don’t have to. The traumatic experiences that have been done TO me do not make me any more or less of a person. If I had told you I had been mugged, you wouldn’t be judging me, but somehow, people feel the need to judge others based on being rape survivors.

I have heard people call survivors of rape “dirty” or “whores” because they couldn’t keep from being “sexually active”. I can promise you that while I was being raped I certainly was not an active participant. I wanted nothing to do with what was happening.

I want the world to be a little more accepting of survivors. This is one of the many reasons why I am no longer going to keep quiet about this. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing.

Once, I was told that it doesn’t matter if a woman is running down a highway naked, she still can say no to sex.

Strippers can say no to sex.

Your girlfriend can say no to sex.

Your husband can say no to sex.

Anyone can say no.

And to have sex, there should be a yes involved: A resounding, mutual yes. Everyone has a right to say no, and no person can force you to have sex regardless of how slutty you are dressed, whether you have had sex with them before, whether you started to make-out then changed your mind, regardless of WHATEVER. I have the right to my own body and what is done to it, and if you want to touch me, you need to get my consent first.

(To learn more about the breakdown of rape survivors, including male statistics, look here.)
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