Sexual Assault is a violation that occurs in many different forms with the side-effects lasting a lifetime.
So, why does a victim stay silent at all?
I think it is easy to look at someone’s situation or circumstance and pass judgments based on what you would do. Because it is easy to say if… then I would …
However, thinking about a circumstance or a situation and playing out the scenario in your head is extremely different than having lived it and experienced it for yourself firsthand.
Violations of this degree go far beyond the physical act. The victim is left with permanent emotional, physical, and psychological scars. Meaning that once the act itself is over, it isn’t over for the victim. The victim often re-lives that act repeatedly because of the multiple ways to which the violation impacts them. Leaving them with more than one could imagine, to learn to cope with.
Probably one of the most common reasons silence occurs is fear. But fear confines us all in different ways.
And a victim stays silent for several other reasons:
MANIPULATION. The perpetrator utilizes manipulation, coercing, and fear - often in the form of threats - to get their victim to comply with what they want. This often leads to repeated offenses. (Especially, when dealing within the category of child sexual abuse.) And it keeps their victims silent. The perpetrator controls their victim by imposing fear in whatever way they can. Because the victim is afraid of whatever the consequence may be, they remain silent.
CLOSE TO HOME. The victim almost always knows the face of their perpetrator. An immediate family member, relative, family friend, or co-worker etc. Another way the perpetrator controls the situation and can repeat the offense on multiple occasions and with multiple victims. Because the face of their perpetrator is a known and recognizable face, it makes it even harder to come forward. The victim may feel that no one would believe them if they did say what happened.
EMOTIONAL TRAUMA. A victim can feel ashamed, embarrassed, and sometimes even guilt after the assault. They begin to feel that they are at fault in some way. As a result, making them too scared to come forward because of how they think it will make them look in the eyes of others. Most likely “others” will refer to those close to the perpetrator as well. A victim can even begin to take responsibility for the actions of their perpetrator in some way. Excusing the actions because of what they think they did wrong.
ISOLATION & DEPRESSION. A Victim can easily become isolated from others. They are drowning in the scars and wounds left behind but don’t trust anyone to confide in. This keeps them locked in silence. And because the perpetrator has utilized threats to them and or their family, or because the perpetrator is so close to them, they are left feeling unsafe and don’t know who to trust. This isolation can easily spiral into a very deep depressive state. They may withdraw from anyone familiar and things they used to participate in. Often this is a result of how trapped they feel carrying the burden of their secret. Because they are unable to talk about what happened to them for fear of judgment, not being believed, and/or stated repercussions by their perpetrator; they feel as though no one could possibly understand what they are going through. So, they stay silent.
PAIN. The wounds are too real. Many victims become paralyzed in the scars as a result of the pain left behind. They try to bury it as though it never happened. And may begin to believe if they don’t speak about it they can somehow erase it from existence. Because accepting that they were a victim is too painful. Talking about it may rehash the painful experience and create additional trauma when all they want to do is forget it ever happened.
AFTERMATH. Side effects can become debilitating. Once a victim has gone through the initial physical act, they have the emotional and psychological aspects to learn to cope with. To name a few, side effects can range from Inability to function in normal social settings, PTSD, Anxiety, Trust Issues, Panic Attacks, Self-Deprecating Behavior, Acting Reckless, Suicidal Thoughts and/ or Attempts, Night Terrors, and Low Self-Esteem.
*No two victims will experience the aftermath EXACTLY the same way. Some victims experience some side effects, some none and others all.
Just because a victim doesn’t come forward right away, does NOT mean the violation never occurred. For every ONE victim who has survived and chooses to come forward, there are millions who stay silent.
Each brave and courageous soul that decides to break the silence and share their story with the world, leads the way creating a path for another victim to follow.
The hard truth is that there will be more cases opened, more victims breaking the silence, and more survivors sharing their stories because *every 98 seconds someone is a victim of sexual assault and even worse every 8 minutes that victim is a child.
Because these are real issues in our society. Instead of turning to look the other way, we need to open up our eyes, spread awareness and talk about it.
It only takes ONE voice to make others feel safe enough to come forward. ONE word to strike up a conversation. And ONE story to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Just because you have never experienced something does not mean it does not happen. Some of us would like to believe that if we pretend we didn’t hear it or see it, then it will go away. Others insist on placing blame somewhere stating some type of conspiracy or motive must be behind another’s actions. Some will be on one side and others will be on the complete opposite spectrum.
But what about the in between? When will we come together and realize that in order to rid this world of just some of the evil, we only need to open our eyes, listen, and share our knowledge with one another?
That in order to make a difference, change must occur.
The question is, will you be the ONE to break the silence, the ONE to share their story, the ONE to listen and hear someone’s plea for help, or will you be the ONE to turn the other way, the ONE who remains with eyes closed shut?
Silently encouraging victims to stay quiet.