Break the Silence
“Do you have a mother? sister? daughter? “
We’ve all experienced it. Whether it’s been degrading words shouted at us as a car drives by, uncomfortable stares on the street, or other forms of harassment. Each time I go through it, I want to stop and ask…no- more like scream at them and say “Do you have a mother, sister, or a daughter?” But I don’t. I abstain from saying anything and silently keep walking.
It doesn’t matter who you are- male or female, young or old- harassment, sexual assault, or rape can happen to anyone. I know that, so in this blog post I’m not trying to point fingers at any particular gender. I’m solely trying to voice my thoughts and experiences regarding this epidemic. In the past couple of months, I’ve either heard or have had many friends come forward about sexual assault or harassment that they have faced in childhood, recently, or both.
Honestly, all of this talk about rape and sexual assault doesn’t make me as angry as much as it makes me feel disappointed and sad that we can’t live in a society where women are respected enough to walk down the street without having a male look at them inappropriately.
Through traveling, I’ve met many males who have had uncomfortable experiences with “lady boys” or transgender individuals in Thailand and Laos. In one particular instance, we had one of the guys tell us about an uncomfortable experience he had with a lady boy while he was out with his friends. At the end he said, “Now I know what girls feel like”. I’m not saying he was wrong for saying that because it’s a valid statement. He was an extremely nice guy, but most guys really don’t know what it feels like to be violated in one way or another.
This blog post is for males as much as it is for females. It’s for the survivors, the general public, and the perpetrators. So here’s a letter to society, split into three sections from the combined voices of women who are survivors or friends or family members of survivors:
To the general public (friends, family members, acquaintances, etc.):
We know your initial instinct is to protect your loved ones. It’s natural to fear for their safety the minute they step out the door. We often trust our loved ones, but we don’t know what the world is capable of. As a daughter, I know my parents worry- they hear stories and do everything in their power to make sure it doesn’t happen to one of their own. What we need to remind ourselves is that the world is going to continue to get worse. There’s no stopping that.
Heck, I worry about my own kids and they’re not even born yet. So my beloved family and friends, I know you can’t help but worry about me. However, what we need to keep reminding you is you can keep protecting me, but we also need to tackle the issue head on. Let’s teach our sons to be gentlemen, so that one day they are respectful husbands and fathers. Let’s make it our mission to take preventative action and tackle male aggression head on. Let’s make it our mission to get rid of the stigma around rape culture (sexual assault, harassment, sexual abuse).
Has someone you know been sexually assaulted? Was she your friend, acquaintance, best friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister, niece? Has she confided in you? There aren’t many words to say, are there? She doesn’t expect you to understand. She knows you may have not gone through it and probably never will. Try to be there for her because what she is going through is real and is going to affect her for the rest of her life. There are two types of survivors: those who want to talk about it and those who don’t. Either way, ask them how they’re doing and they’ll let you know. Don’t tip toe around it, tackle it head on and just ask them. Ask them and then listen. The last thing she needs is for you to disappear or for you to question her feelings or what happened.
To the perpetrators,
I’ll keep this short because there isn’t much to say. It’s actually fairly simple.
When your mother told you to not touch the stove, you probably didn’t know any better when you did it, right? When you didn’t touch the stove, it was because you knew you were going to get burned. You know sexual abuse and harassment is wrong, then why do you do it anyway? Is it because you know you’re not getting burned and someone else is?
Take some time and answer all of these questions because I’m sure you will have a few answers. Do you even look at your victims like they’re human? When you’re preying on a young, innocent child, do you realize that your actions have an impact on their entire lives? I’m not sure if you knew, but they blame themselves for what happened. They shun themselves from their family and friends. Usually, we shape our decisions based on the decisions we make, but these kids’ lives are impacted by the decisions you made.
Why do you do it? Were not loved enough? Was it for pleasure? Was it because you’re angry? Is it to feel in control and powerful?
What if this happened to your mother, daughter, or sister? Would you want to take back what you did to your victims?
To the survivors,
We know it’s a hard transition from being a victim to a survivor, but we want you to know it’s possible. There are so many people waiting to listen, so many resources, and others who have been through similar situations. You may think you are the only one, but you are definitely not. Through personal and other’s experiences, I’ve learned that talking it through helps. You don’t need to tell the world about it if you don’t want to. You can confide in one or two people and help yourself gain control of life again.
Trust us; we know what it’s like to lose people around you. To close yourself in and stop trusting after some people negatively reacted to what happened to you. Don’t give up. If you need to talk about it, we’re here. You just have to find the right outlets and you know what? This is going to make you stronger than you were before. This all sounds so cliché, but going through this whole cycle of blaming yourself doesn’t last forever. You’ll get through it and you’ll end up stronger. You’ll be able to help yourself and help others in the process.
Stop feeling alone and stop being a stranger. Reach out. Talk. You might cry, you might not. You might get angry, you might not. You’ll handle it in your own way, and that’s completely fine. Whether you were harassed, sexually assaulted, abused, raped, whatever it was. It doesn’t mean it’s less important than the next one. If it makes you feel a type of way you don’t like, then tell us. We’re out here, waiting, with our ears and hearts wide open. You won’t be a bother and you won’t be a burden.
Don’t let what happened define who you are and what you will one day become. It’s shouldn’t engulf your being or turn into a scapegoat for whatever actions you commit to yourself or others around you. Yes, all of this is a part of your story, but it’s not the final chapter.