SAAM: Sexual Assault And Moving on

Originally posted in Community Blog

Cross-listed with S&M: Anonymous, Not Monogamous

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the day that a stranger appeared suddenly in my life and changed the trajectory of my future. He and I are not celebrating this anniversary with a romantic dinner, a getaway weekend, or love-making. He and I do not even know each other. He probably doesn’t commemorate the first and last time we met like I do. I’m sure he has not lost sleep over thinking about me, is not haunted by my memory – I may even just have been one of many for him, but I will never know.

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the day that a stranger raped me. The day that I was unwillingly committed to a lifelong relationship with a memory of a human being, a memory of an experience. The day that I tried to bury deep into my mind, to deny to myself and others for over a year afterwards. The day that spiraled me into sixteen months of celibacy and years of shame, self-hatred, self-neglect. The day that sent me literally and figuratively running. The day that far too many women and girls can relate to.

Yesterday was also a benchmark of empowerment. Over the past four years, I have slowly but surely begun to learn from this experience of sexual violence. And while I still have a long road of progress ahead of me, I can finally claim some more uplifting conclusions. The one thing I have thought about the most is that while I did not choose this experience, I DO choose how I react to it, and how I would like to move forward in my life with this memory. So although this realization unfolded (quite) slowly over the past four years, I can finally fully appreciate the fact that while I cannot nor have not been able to fully control what another person does to my body, I can always control what another person does to my mind.

It is essential that women who share this experience feel they can openly speak about it – even if it’s just with a friend. I am unbelievably lucky to have a few people in my life who are incredibly compassionate, patient, and understanding – and I honestly do not think I would have been at this point (blogging about my experience) if it had not been for this nurturing environment conducive to openness. That same environment on a societal level is close to nonexistent. While there are some amazing organizations out there aimed at various issues involving rape culture, there is a massively gaping hole in which the majority of society’s disinterest falls into. There is a blurry line between being apathetic and being a bystander to injustices.

The word “anniversary” was actually first used to signify the day of a person’s death (“returning annually”), and the word is now used to celebrate a happy past event that occurred on the same day. If you have experienced sexual violence, this is how I would like for you to think of what happened – as both a mourning and a celebration, an allowance of overlap that neither denies your suffering nor your fortitude. Because for me, there is absolutely a part of my mind and heart that needs to mourn what happened to me; but the other part of me wants to celebrate the fact that I am a survivor, that I am a strong woman choosing to move forwardwhile carrying this memory.

SO, happy anniversary rapist, and thank you for choosing the month of April so I can celebrate SAAM ironically. Today alone, 600 women will probably experience sexual violence, marking 600 new “anniversaries” without “proposals” (thank you NOW).

Unlike millions of women, YOU have a choice. Become active today, because tomorrow is always too late.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted April 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and writing this post. I know that as a survivor of rape that it’s been on my mind a lot lately because of SAAM.

    I’m approaching the 5 year anniversary of my assault in July and that number is a little it shocking to me. Even though it was almost 5 years ago, I definitely still feel like that 14 year old girl who had to deal with being betrayed by the friend who raped me, a situation way too adult for me at the time. It made me grow up way too fast so I definitely agree with you when you say that a art of you mourns on the anniversary. I’m definitely still mourning the innocent person I was before I was raped. It’s taken me the last 4.5 years to actually mean it when I say that it wasn’t my fault.

    At the same time. this upcoming anniversary is so empowering. Tomorrow as part of SAAM at my school will be a “Take Back the Night” March followed by a Survivor’s Speak Open Mic, which I helped organize as an officer of my school’s SA awareness, education, and prevention organization. I also am performing in, and co-producing the Vagina Monologues. If my 14 year old self was told that she would have the power to do all of this, she would have called the messenger delusional. But, I think that she would be really proud of me.

    I was raped. It happened. And while I still let myself mourn that a little bit, because it was sad, I also can use the worst experience of my life as the greatest source of power. Because I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world where I am constantly afraid of rape or where women are told that it was there fault, so they are ashamed and silent. My dream is to change that.

  2. Posted April 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    This is an amazing post! I’ve never thought about it as an anniversary, but that’s a great way to look at it. No one wishes for things like this to happen to them, but when it does, it changes you forever.

    I mourn losing the old version of me, much like Amanda D. said. However, I wouldn’t be the person I am today with out my own experiences of sexual assault. My anniversaries are never easy, but hearing stories like these makes it all that much easier.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s truly powerful! Keep sharing and get the word out! People need to start listening and taking a stand, it should not just be survivors!

  3. Posted April 18, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    This post was very moving and empowering. Though I cannot relate to what you have been through, I respect and admire the fact that though you are hurt you took it upon yourself to take control of how you react and how you move forward. This is a great message for women in similar situations as well as women in general; The message being to take control for yourself and to meld together with other women who have experienced sexual assault. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Posted April 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I think this is a great article! I know for myself, I look at anniversaries as a time to “mourn” what has happened… mourning a loss of yourself.

    Sexual Assault….whether it be rape, molestation, sexual abuse etc… are all horrible! They are crimes of control and/or power, and not about sex. For me, its damaged my self esteem, my ability to trust and rocked my world more than anything.

    But the one thing I have figured out is that we are survivors and we can get through this healing process…. one day at a time!

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