Friday, June 24, 2016

Assault Victims: It Hurts, But Keep Fighting

In the news recently, a man was sentenced to 6 months in jail for the rape of a woman. I'm not even going to get into that because, well, no words. I don't want to talk about this case. What I want to talk about is how this event may have affected many victims of rape and other sexual assaults personally. It has often been said that rape or assault is not the worst part, it is the re-victimization by the police, courts, and supposed friends and loved ones that can be the most damaging. 

When cases such as this one hit the news and social media, those who have been previously traumatized, in many cases, are triggered to relive their assaults again. The real shame of many cases like this is that, when a person is assaulted, they often are the ones put on trial first. Many investigators ask things like, "What were you wearing?" or "Were you drinking?" or "Did you make him/her think you wanted it?" While all of these questions might help the investigators understand the big picture (see me giving the benefit of the doubt there?), the fact is, if a person is unable or not allowed to provide consent, the answer is NO! Anyway, I digress. 

When you have been victimized, your power has been completely taken from you. You have been made to feel that you have no control over yourself. Then, you go to a group that is supposed to protect you, and you are made to feel like a criminal. If you are lucky, when all the evidence is collected, you finally get your day in court. Oh wait, did I mention your "day in court" usually comes after about 6-10 court dates have been set (1 per month or so) and then postponed yet again 30 minutes prior to the hearing. Thus, each month you have to relive your assault(s) to prepare to face your perpetrator and tell the whole story in open court, only to be told "nope, not yet." This is the biggest crime of all; the victim's continued feeling of loss of control and feeling of fault and helplessness. You start to think...Maybe if you had told your story better, maybe if you had more proof, maybe, maybe, maybe this would all be over. Yet, it keeps going on and on and on. 

What many victims say is, "When can I just be me again?" The sad thing is very often after an assault, you are no longer you. You have to find a new you - the after-the-assault you. And just when you feel like you are finally finding your footing, something like this flashes all over the news and it feels like you have to start all over again. It sucks, it hurts, it isn't fair, and, yet, life has to go on. But how to do this? You have to find your tribe, find your group that you can laugh with, cry with, rage with, and get through these horrible feelings again. You have to be more than a victim; you have to survive, and you have to strive. You can't let some little piss-ant or an ignorant judge or the sensationalist media take away your power again. I can't promise you won't be triggered to relive your assault again. My heart cries for your pain because not only do I know, but I know. But don't let this bring you down. Don't let this beat you. You are better than all of them: the bullies, the assailants, the jaded investigators, and the dumb courts. You survived and that is so much more than any of them have ever done.

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