Beside the assaults themselves, the most painful for me was the silence.
I always wanted to speak up, to scream to get all the pain out. I just couldn’t. The assaults by themselves were so traumatic that they let me in shock and voiceless. Really. I froze and disconnected like a lot of people do when submited to a very traumatic experience.
I’ve been silent/silenced in many different ways but the result has always been the same: I couldn’t speak out so I coulnd’t express myself, couldn’t tell my story, couldn’t put words on what happened to me and that prevent me to own my story, to define and understand why I felt so bad, to heal and that was such a favor to them, the abusers.
When I met others victims/survivors later on I realised that we all had one common language: the silence.
I think there is a vicious circle that prevent us to speak freely and openly.
The assault itself can let you totally voiceless. I mean physically. I could not speak at all during the assaults. Not a single word. And after, when my voice came back I couldn’t speak about what happened. I could not pronounce the words “assault“, “rape” for instance. I even hardly had these word in my head.
What helped me a lot was to move abroad and use another language. It has been hard to start to pronounce the word “rape” but it came much easier (and earlier) than the word “”viol”. I can tell and use the word “viol” since a very few time ago.
But if I cannot speak, how can I ask for help? How can I inform people about what happened? How can people know there are so many cases of rape? How can they know the real facts and consequences of rape and sexual assault?
Then, never forget that we live in a society that tends to consider the victim as guilty. “What was she wearing?” “Was she drunk?” “What was she doing alone?” are recurrent questions. We all know these are very common questions and it does not help victims to speak up.
The truth is this silence helps the abusers. They need our silence to abuse in total impunity. Because while we are silent they can put their own words to their crime. What they call “bad communication” or “a misunderstanding” we would call it “rape”. Our society who does not have our version uses euphemism, wrong words because our society does not know our reality and are not really willing to know it because it is not really pleasant. It is much more confortable to think that we were asking for it that to face that your son, your brother, your father, your best friend can be a rapist and to face that it can happen to all of us. If it is the victim fault, then I can avoid to be rape by doing the right think and protect me. It is completely wrong but I understand this could be a protective issue.
When we speak, we can name what happened to us. We can put a word on it. We can define it and then fight it. What harassers call “compliments” we call it “harassment“. What a sex offender calls “a pick up technique” we call it “sexual assault”. When a journalist speak about “non consensual sex” because he/she uses the only words they used to hear and read we call it “rape“. When some speak about “family tragedy” we call it “domestic violence murder“. What people with humor call “just a joke” we call it “reality that happens to real human being“.
Our stories, our reality become visible.
But this is a vicious circle.
We are first silenced by the assault, then by the fear to be judge or mocked (I’ve been personally terrified that my story could inspire some rape jokes), by the fear to be called liar, and since our story remains unsaid all these wrong ideas, all these myths remain the only reference about sexual violence. We don’t know how to speak and we don’t know what word we can use because our reality, our experience do not fit with this sugarcoated main discourse. I remember clearly, after being assaulted, that I would not know what to say to the police. I couldn’t help to think about some articles speaking of a “seducer” when the correct word was in fact rapist, about “non-consensual sexual relationship ” when it should have been written rape, about “hit on tecnic”when it was sexual assault. I could not imagine myself at the police station claiming that I have been approached by a seducer who tried a pick up tecnic on me and had non consensual sexual relationship with me. It did not make sense at all.
This silence was killing me. We have to understand what happened to find the appropriate help and care and to understand what happened we have to name it. We need to speak to show our reality, our life, our story. To show that it had nothing to do with our outfit. To show that it does not happen only by night. To show that we never asked for it. To make everyone clear that it was not our fault and that rape is rape and nothing else. Period.
The more we are, the most effective we are because we are always stronger together. One people speaking does make a lot of noise amoung a big crowd. But thousands, millions of people have much more power. A lot of victims/survivors have it hard to speak out and that’s ok. We need to heal and recover a minimum first. But what is vital is that everyone who can speak up does so. This include those who did not suffer any assault. You can first listen to the victims/survivors and chose to stand with us by using the right terminology and spread our voices and our stories. We are not alone. Together we have a voice.