HUFFINGTON POST: Speaking Out: Shame and Sexual Assault
The phrase ‘sexual violence’ has high currency now and, tragically, it’s use appears to be on the increase. It is a situation that achieves one distinct objective, to intentionally injure and sexually assault a person, without his or her consent. There is not enough compassion, respect, and equal treatment in most of our dealings towards rape and sexual abuse, both of which are a gross violation of human rights.
The public recently witnessed the case of Bill Cosby, who allegedly skipped a guilty charge for two criminal rapes. And like most public figures who are able to lawyer up, there is an unforgivably large percentage of victims being silenced in spite of public outcry.
Plenty other cases will never be news-worthy to hit the headlines. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center Info & Stats for Journalists state that, shockingly, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
One friend, who has asked to remain nameless, recently told me about an experience she had had visiting her regular masseur. She had found this great therapist a year earlier and started getting deep-tissue massages with him on a bi-weekly basis.
He was a kind, trustworthy, caring young man; not to mention brilliant at de-knotting her notoriously tense body. He always gave her a small discount and went far longer than the scheduled hour.
Then, after work commitments had kept her out of town for two months, it was immediately apparent upon her return that something had changed. Something was off. There was no tangible reason for her to feel this way, and yet her feeling didn’t change. All she could think about was a nagging sense of discomfort.
As my friend was disrobing, the therapist suddenly burst through door - a clear breach of protocol - citing the urgent need to put another towel on the bed. She let it slide, but the little incident only added to the odd feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Midway through the session, with his hands caressing and contorting her naked body, he started moving closely - almost inappropriately - around the inside of her leg. He pushed in hard, ramming his fingers deep inside her vagina. His other hand was over her mouth, so she couldn’t scream or call out. She fought back with her legs, grabbed a towel and broke free naked. Shouting out for help, she tried to engage bystanders, they started leering at her suspiciously as if she was stark raving mad.
Everything that had been bothering her before, the unexplained anxiety, instantly made sense. With her heart pounding, she wondered: If she had known something was seriously wrong, why didn’t she leave earlier? These thoughts still plague her, and as much as she’s grateful for escaping a hard, even violent and possibly lethal fight, she’s is unable to recover.
She still refuses to report him to the authorities or talk to anyone about this. Her mark of shame, self -loathing, and humiliation are branded neatly on her skin.
“My shameful secret is my waking nightmare,” she said.
The silence must end. As long as rape remains secret and shameful, recovery is impossible. My friend still believes it’s her fault. “There are not enough support networks, to nurture recovery,” she said, “I’m scared that people won’t take me seriously because I got away. And what happened to me is nothing compared to serious rape.”
Time and again we (women) hear, “You are responsible for what happened.” But they will never know the silent howls that butcher dignity in the aftermath of horror.
Many survivors seek therapy. The aftereffect can be colossal. The journey to heal may be frightening; but building a bridge of awareness and telling your story are invaluable first steps.
If you know anyone who is afraid to report a rape or sexual abuse crime, know that it is their right to ask for privacy and anonymity. I recommend you be patient and gently encourage the advantages of joining a recovery group. Help them to find someone to walk with on the journey. Remind them that they are not a statistic; they have a name.
“Violators cannot live with the truth: survivors cannot live without it. There are those who still, once again, are poised to invalidate and deny us. If we don’t assert our truth, it may again be relegated to fantasy. But the truth won’t go away. It will keep surfacing until it is recognized. ― Chrystine Oksana
If you need immediate support, you can reach your local RAINN affiliate at any time, 24/7, by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).