Mirror, mirror…

I share the tragedy of my rape because when I snatch my story out of its’ dark corner and shove it into the light, the impalpable shame that surrounds it vanishes and it becomes powerless over me and my future.

I share my story with the man or woman that is raped every 7 minutes in Canada, with the Brazilian woman that is raped every 15 seconds, to the 93 women that are raped every day in India.

75% of Aboriginal girls are raped by the time they reach 18 years of age.

My story is not just my story. It is the story of many. It is the story of one out of four and one out of six. One is still one too many.

1997. I was 17 years old. It was a cold, dry morning, around 7:00 a.m., I was on my way to school to attend choir practice.

Weeks prior to the rape, we had a brief encounter. I was walking from my house to the bus stop to go to school and he came up from behind me, put his right hand underneath my (uniform) kilt. I felt his hand cup and grab my butt and when I turned around startled, he stared at me valiantly and walked away casually, looking back at me with offensive satisfaction. I just stood there, stunned. I blamed myself for that moment. “Why are you wearing your kilt?” I asked myself. So, guess what? Since I placed blame on myself, I started to wear sweatpants every morning and would change into my uniform when I got to school. Now, isn’t it fucked up that we live in a society where girls and women feel they have no choice but to accommodate evil? It took me decades to realize that there is only one thing that causes rape: RAPISTS.

The morning that it happened I was on my usual route, with my Russell Athletic sweatpants on. Hey, my legs are completely covered, no one will harass me THIS time, right?

Everything happened so fast that I had no time to react. From the time he came up from behind me, to when he grabbed me to when he threw me to the ground, to when I tried to fight back to when he got up and left me there – it all seemed like a matter of seconds. Every touch from him was cold and remorseless. When it plays back in my mind, it’s usually out of sequence and the same fog of frustration and unanswered questions swirl around me.

What were the series of life choices that led this “man” to rape me?
I shouldn’t have tried to fight to back, what was I thinking?
You should pay more attention in tae kwon do class!
It’s this same guy from weeks ago, you should have known!
Why me?
Did she see me?
How could she not see me?
Why didn’t she stop to help me?

I didn’t see her face, but I saw her black heels while I was on the ground – him on top of me. The black heels didn’t stop to help me, I didn’t hear her cry out for help, she didn’t even take steps back, she just kept moving forward as if I was in invisible.

I think of this woman more often than the rapist. For decades, I hated her. Why, why, why? Why? Why didn’t you help me? How can you just walk by something like that? But now, after years of self-reflection, a different assortment of questions have surfaced.

Maybe she thought that someone else would step in?
Maybe she figured someone had already dialed 911?
Maybe she thought there was more than one rapist?
Maybe she was scared that he has going to come after her?
Maybe she simply did not want to get involved?
Maybe her stress response was simply dissociation?

This bystander handed me a gift that day – a mirror. Never will I be a mirror like image of her choices in that moment when she saw me. I am quick to offer help to others because I know what it’s like to be aware that someone has witnessed an incomprehensible situation I am in but does not offer assistance. She has influenced me in my advocacy work. Her actions that day is the reason why I am more than willing to spend hours on Twitter with an online translator supporting a survivor who is 9 hours ahead of me. She is the reason why I point blank asked my cousin if she too was molested by our grandfather. I rather create an uncomfortable conversation and be wrong, then choose silence and be right. I recently spoke at a highschool and shared with them the psychological phenomenon known as the bystander effect. That part of my talk is inspired by the bystander and her black heels. I still think of this woman, but with empathy and compassion now.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and this includes every conversation you hear and everything you see, whether you are overhearing a man disrespecting his girlfriend in public or when a friend slowly starts to confide with you about their childhood trauma.

Always help someone. You might be the only person that does.

Always Be Aware.

95% of child sexual abusers are known to the child.  The younger the victim, the more likely the abuser is a family member – in my case, my paternal grandfather.  He not only groomed me, he groomed my parents AND my grandmother.  She knew what was happening and did nothing to stop him, making her guilty as well.  Using my molestation in the summer of 1994 as an example, here are four signs to take caution of.

Child Sexual Abusers:

1.  Are ALWAYS available to take care of your child.
My paternal grandparents were ALWAYS our caregivers when they visited us or when we visited them.

2.  ALWAYS gives your child special treatment.
He ALWAYS called me his “favourite granddaughter”.  I remember when he saw my 10th grade school picture, he couldn’t stop gushing over it, telling me how beautiful I looked, that I was all grown up, blah, blah, blah.  When I visited my grandparents in 1997, three years after the last time time he molested me, I noticed that that school photo was framed in my grandparents room.  My siblings school pictures?  Outside in the living room.  Did my parents notice it?  Nope.

3.  ALWAYS gives your child gifts and showers your child with never ending compliments.
One of our summer routines included our grandfather taking my siblings and I to the corner store.  Guess who never had to share her candy?

4.  Manipulates you, the parent, to spend time alone with your child, or ALWAYS finds the time to be alone with your child.
He would molest me after lunch, when my siblings were outside playing with my grandmother, and I would be inside the house trapped with him.  My grandmother’s “job” was to usher my siblings out of the house right after lunch, while letting me know, as the eldest, it was my job to wash the dishes.

Thank you, Celeste.

The excerpt is a shining example of how to reach out to a survivor. The message is sincere, supportive and direct without being assertive.  Often times, people find it easier to distance themselves from the person, as if they have contracted some kind of contagious disease.  Instead of asking questions, they resort to making assumptions.  Thank you, my dear friend for reaching out to me.

Do you cut to self medicate?

If so, I just want to support you with sharing. It really shows me you have had major traumas in your life, which I’m aware of, but that it was also traumatic to you.

You coming out and sharing your story I felt you may have come out unscathed. This shows me you are a more courageous woman than I even thought before.

 

Justice in Action: In solidarity for survivors of sexually based crimes.

This is our letter in support of Daisy Coleman, survivor of the Steubenville, Ohio rape case.  A colleague and I have been following the story of Daisy Coleman, a student at a Missouri high school who was raped by Matt Barnett, a high school football player.  The headlines on November 26, 2013 is a victory for survivors of sexually based crimes.

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Dear Daisy,

You are receiving this letter today from two survivors of sexually based crimes. Although our crimes occured nearly 25 years ago and we are now women in our early 30’s, we both can relate to your story significantly due to the similar outcomes.

We applaud your bravery and ability to stand strong against judgements casted upon you, the violence surrounding you, and the unjust scrutiny your state’s people have intentionally engulfed on you and your family.

Your aftermath mirrors ours. Collectively, we have self-mutilated our bodies, questioned our faith, and have unsuccessfully carried out our suicidal tendencies. And like you, before this all happened we were innocent shining stars looking forward to our bright futures. Please remember all of your emotions are valid and you are not alone.

This may sound redundant and overtly hopeful, however, healing is possible, it just takes a great amount of time. You have begun the process already by standing up for yourself and breaking your silence. Many women, let alone 14 year olds, are unable to speak up in fear of the backlash that you are so obviously experiencing. Missouri State Law recognizes the importance of protecting minors under the age of 17 so much so that they have written a section specifically related to Statutory Rape. Children are not capable of making the choices to give consent to sex. Just like your State, our Province of British Columbia also recognizes the need to write a law maintaining the protection and innocence of our youth. Daisy, we feel Survivors of Statutory Rape deserve automatic prosecution of their rapists.

Just because people, police chiefs, prosecutors and senators attempt to thwart your voice and that of your family, does not mean the crime did not occur. You must prevail and you must seek justice. We have been following your story because it relates so personally to us, and we are inspired, just like so many others. Please continue to follow your truth. Do not let those in power dictate how your crime is addressed. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Even if you are a minority of one, the Truth is the Truth”.

Since your image was unrightfully tarnished, we would like to give you your name back. The name Daisy is a symbolism of loyal love, beauty, and simplicity. Although this may be hard to believe right now, your name also represents purity and innocence. And we are certain that as you walk on your path towards healing, you will live up to another symbolism of your name, patience.

Be kind to yourself. You matter. You too are a child of the light.

Love, your friends,
R&J

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