Home > Healing Journey, The Call to Speak out, Uncategorized > May is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

May is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

In the hospital where I am doing this trauma therapy program, there is a big information area for current issues pertaining to women. May is sexual assault awareness month and they are promoting awareness, encouraging survivors to speak up and working ultimately towards preventing such awful acts of indecency.

Having been a victim of sexual assault, I want to share some of the impact on my own life as well as impact that I have observed in friends who are dear to me.

Sexual assault is not simply an act of crime of perpetrator against victim. Yes, the violence and trauma is most significant to the victim. But the impact of the perpetrator’s crime extends far beyond the victim. In my case, there are many people who have been effected by my dad’s actions and still many more that I anticipate. First, there is my mom – a non-offending parent who had to choose between her daughter and her husband… not because I gave her an ultimatum, but because choosing who to believe demands a response. If my mom were to believe me, she could not live life as if it never happened. I have many siblings who are impacted by family dynamics, and Grandparents whom I’ve lost relationships with. The sin and brokenness extend to my extended family where there are divisions and pain that those divisions cost.

But there is more than just family. I think of the friends that have come into my life at various times and supported me in intense ways – from daily text messages, to hanging out, to letting me live with them, to seeing me in my darkest moments when I lost all hope.

And as I consider my life and my future and hope for a husband and family of my own, there are significant costs to my future husband – for he will have to learn to love someone who has been broken in relationship, suffered sexual violence and whose heart aches with depression at times. And while I hope that the work that I am doing in healing now will change the patterns that have been passed down generations, I am aware that my children will also be effected – if not from my own suffering and ways of dealing with my traumatic background, from simply the loss of not having connection with my mom or my siblings.

And then there are costs, significant costs, to the victim herself.

I learned in the program this week that when safety is a concern for a child/teen, then their ability to take in school and learning is compromised. A lightbulb moment happened as the model they were presenting helped to make sense of my schooling experience and my struggles. My university transcripts have grades ranging from 53-90…. with marks bouncing all over the place. The way that I made sense of these grades was to believe that I was really stupid and that the high marks were not really deserved, but more people feeling sorry for me. Even in my graduate studies where I’ve been able to maintain excellent grades, i have felt that it is because I am in a program where marking is rather lenient.

When that lightbulb moment happened in the therapy program, i realized that there was another way to make sense of my university transcript… during my first three years of university, whenever I studied at home, my dad  would fondle me. And I would freeze, as I always did, and try to tell myself what was happening to me was not real. I tried to focus on my school reading, but wasn’t able to take anything in. Then after he would leave i’d be so shaken up that I couldn’t concentrate. My nights were filled with graphic nightmares making sleep complicated and my days would be filled with memories and fears, and dreading going home. I remember paying to stay at my college and then staying at a friend’s house during exam time so I could get away and get stuff done. What sadness that came with this realization that the abuse was connected to my inability to do consistently well at school. I remember saying in sadness and anger that my dad set me up to fail by abusing me. I know I carry a transcript with me with a wide range of marks and a semi-ok GPA. I struggle to know that future school endeavours are limited because often a transcript is all admissions officers are interested in… and they lack the story that accompanies the grade and often there isn’t a chance to address that. One of my best friends got admitted into medical school and I am so excited for her as that has been her life dream. But I also found myself jealous and sad because this was something I once wanted, and it is something that is not open to me any longer. It was weird to feel these feelings especially since I have come to believe that my calling is elsewhere. Still, knowing that my options are limited because my dad chose his own desires over my welfare is a hard one to swallow.

School is just one thing.

Sexual assault impacts every aspect of life.

body image. view of own’s self. self esteem. eating habits. taking care of oneself. disturbed sleep. coping strategies that are unhealthy (excessive drinking, substance abuse, cutting, burning, promiscuity, etc). fear of men. fear of people in authority. wounded sexuality. self confidence. relationships. friendships. view of God – anger at God allowing this to happen, anger at God for not answering prayers about it stopping, or distorted view of God because perpetrator claims to have faith or to be acting out of love. fear of conflict. trouble speaking up for oneself, trouble speaking up for what one wants or needs. Difficulty expressing emotion. depression. suicidal thinking. Difficulty keeping a job. feeling like they are two different persons – the one who from the outside looks like they have it all together while really in the inside crumbling apart. financial difficulties.

just to name a few things.

many women who have been abusive situations find themselves in abusive relationships, further adding to the trauma in their life.

The impact of sexual assault is so great and multifaceted that victims spend years in counseling and intense therapy of various sorts. Thankfully for me, this is now covered by our health care system (may I never complain when I pay taxes one day). But I have already spent thousands of dollars and this is pennies compared to what some have spent. I have lost time working and lost jobs because i was too overwhelmed to handle my work, a further strain on finances and self esteem.

Sexual assault also has a huge impact on society. I know many women including myself who, because of the overwhelmingness of the trauma and it’s effects, are on long term disability. Women who have been abused use the health care system more frequently. When assault cases are investigated and taken to trial, there is enormous cost and resources spent to make this happen – and most often the perpetrator is let off, sending someone who is known to harm people in this deep way back into a world without them confronting what they have done.

Each of us has a duty to love and care for our neighbour. I believe this duty is one of standing up for justice and challenging the injustices of our world. One of the ways we can do this is to become more aware of the effects of sexual assault and learn ways to support those who have been through trauma to support their recovery. We need to challenge the perpetrators to get the help that they so desparately need and to face their own brokenness and potentially histories of trauma so that they do not re-offend. We need to learn the signs so that, particularly with children and youth, we can be quicker to recognize, believe and find help for them. Most of all, we need to become knowledgeable about this so that when we encounter a victim of abuse or assault, we may support them by believing them – something that has proven to be huge in recovery.

  1. May 25, 2012 at 5:30 am

    You’re stronger than you realize and your determination to speak out proves it!

  2. Rascaldebrat
    June 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Reading this blog reminds me of what I experienced as a child trying to focus on school and could not due to the childhood sexual abuse I was faced with for a number of years. I could relate to you when you mentioned about your high marks at university you did not deserved those marks. I was a complete failure both in elementary and secondary school and was told I would not mount to anything in life. Running away from the abuse in my homeland and living here in Canada I certainly have mounted to something. My recommendation which I say to myself all the time don’t give up no matter how hard the road ahead seems to be. You will get the paper done when it feels right. Try and not pressure or be too hard on yourself. Being in the Trauma Therapy Program and studying at the same time is kind of hard to do both one of the reasons I put my studies on hold until I complete the program. I was in the same boat as you when I had a paper to write and I could not bring myself to doing it as I was in the first group and it was just too much to do at the sametime. Hang in there your paper will get done eventually.

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