I resent the phrase, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
When I was 19 years old, a freshman at UAF, I was raped. The barebones logistics of the situation seem to perpetuate the notion that it was my fault. I had been drinking. The boy was familiar to me and I thought he was attractive, compelling, and he was close to the basketball team. Even writing these words 14 years later I feel a sense of responsibility for what happened that night. Honestly, the details don’t matter. What matters is: I was reduced to a shell of a human.
My autonomy, my dignity, my consent were all taken from me. I carried shame and grief for nearly 8 years because every time I remembered that night, every time I suppressed my trauma, every time I ran into this person- I was reminded I was inconsequential and my body was not mine. The ways in which that night broke me followed me everywhere, even into relationships. To this day I can still feel a ghost of that girl, the ashamed girl who used alcohol, drugs, casual sex, food manipulation, and exercise to stifle the rage of keeping quiet.
I was 27 years old before I was ready to share my experience. I can say that finding my voice has helped, not carrying the heavy reality alone helps me. I still see him in social circles, this person who violated my body and my trust, but without the generous people I surround myself with I would not have the courage to share my story.
Now that I am 33 I have financial security, a robust emotional support system, and I have knowledge of and access to resources. I recognize my privilege and I’m here to tell you, I will help you carry your heaviness. I give you my support on your terms and your terms only. I encourage all survivors and allies to raise your middle fingers at the notion that our stories have to make us stronger. We are strong when we support each other, not because we were violated and lived to carry our grief.
As a society we are beyond condemning rape. We are beyond having conversations about it because there is little to debate. We’ve all known all along that sexual assault is deplorable, unacceptable behavior. And yet, our daughters, sisters, mothers, and friends have been - and continue to be - reduced to ghosts of themselves. One look at the statistics around sexual assault in this State and it is obvious.
We can do better. We must do better.