Giving Space To Survivors For Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By: Kelley Calkins

flickr/Bizz

Sexual violence is an ugly, painful phenomenon to face. Involving the most intimate and egregious of violations, it is a violence like no other. Singular, too, is the way society stigmatizes and shames its survivors — often into total secrecy and silence. Perhaps ugliest of all, though, is the frequency with which it occurs. According to RAINN, every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted. Yet from harassment to molestation to rape, sexual violence is frequently ignored, downplayed, or flat-out denied.

April, first officially recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2001, is about giving voice to those silenced, spreading strategies for preventing more abuse, and supporting those who’ve lived — and continue to live — through the suffering.

Acknowledging that this subject is triggering and arduous for far too many people, The Establishment feels it’s important to give space for survivors of all stripes to share their stories, and to provide writers room to delve into aspects and occurrences of sexual abuse otherwise rarely discussed. Our goal is to honor the experiences of survivors and raise awareness on this societal scourge. To this end, we’re compiling our existing coverage of Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2016 here, and adding to this series throughout the week.

Here’s to silencing the violence — not its survivors.

Was I ‘Raped Enough’ To Call Myself A Survivor?
By Katie Klabusich

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“It’s hard to argue with someone who has consumed around 20 Coors Lights and a bottle or more of Jägermeister in four or five hours. After several attempts to push him away or pretend I was asleep, I began having a conversation with myself about which of my options was the least bad. More than once I decided giving in would be faster and easier — despite my exhaustion or because of it, depending on the day. Eventually, that became my default response because none of my other options or plans crafted in the early morning hours listening for him at the door worked anyway.”

The Stories We Tell About Sexual Assault — And The Stories We Don’t
By Aaron Kappel

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“He raped me, more than once, and convinced me it couldn’t possibly be rape because there was no fight, no physical force, no bruises or blood. But my body is covered in invisible scars, and his hands are all over them. And now, all these years later, when I defiantly decide to name him and speak the truth, I still have trouble linking the words: rape, Erik, me. I haven’t spoken to or seen him in years, but he’s still there, in my head. I can feel his smirk behind my lips, his patronizing gaze behind my eyes — he is still inside me without consent.”

Dear Tufts Administrators Who Expelled Me After My Sexual Assaults
By Wagatwe Wanjuki

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“I have to ask, how do you sleep at night? (I’m sure you do it much better than me.) How do you remain silent and go through your day-to-day knowing that you have failed numerous survivors who’ve lived on Tufts’ campus?
How do you function knowing that students entrusted to your institution suffer from your ignorance and reluctance to do the right thing?”

Tonight We’re Going To PTSD Like It’s 1999
By Lea Grover

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“I never blamed Prince for what happened to me. He had been a fact of my life long before my rape, I expected him to be a part of my environment forever. But after my assault, he wasn’t the background voice of Batman, he wasn’t the spellbinding musician from my television — he was the soundtrack to my trauma. Hearing his voice made my skin clammy, made my flesh crawl, set my heart racing and blurred my vision. I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the sound of Prince’s voice was the strongest trigger in my life.”

When Spiritual Leaders Abuse
By Seraphina Ferraro

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“When I was in grade school in the late ’80s, the accusations and allegations of sexual predation among the priests of the Catholic Church came to light. A lot of the people I knew felt angry and betrayed by a community that they had trusted so intimately. I, for my part, had no faith to shake. I was angry at the priests who had taken advantage of the children in their care. And I was equally angry at The Church, which seemed content to shuffle predators around and did not seem to care about the harm that they were doing.
In the Zen community, the problem of sexual misconduct has been less systematic and more centered on specific individuals. But those individual acts were enough to give me pause.”

The Campus Sexual Assault Epidemic Is Even Worse For LGBTQ Students

By Casey Quinlan

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“The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ recent data on sexual assault also shows higher rates of sexual violence for LGBTQ students. Earlier research from the American Association of University Women, conducted in 2006, found sexual harassment, in terms of both non-contact harassment and contact harassment, such as making students perform sexual acts, were higher for LGBT students.
But still, the conversation about campus rape centers on the assumption that the perpetrator is a cisgender heterosexual man and the survivor is a cisgender heterosexual woman.”
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