Last November, I was sexually assaulted by someone I trusted. The assault took place on my third visit to his home. I thought I took all of the necessary precautions by going on a few dates first before taking the next step to be sexually involved with him. So, I was shocked when the assault took place because I thought he was trustworthy. What’s more, I was in shock for months afterward. And it took time for me to finally accept what had happened. After internally coming to terms with the assault, I had decided not to share my experience publicly.
When I first made the choice not to speak up, I suspected it was a trauma response. I thought coping with the trauma of that night would get easier once I processed what happened and got help. However, after months of therapy, I still stand firmly by my decision to remain silent about the incident as my decision is not driven by shame. I am not ashamed of what happened because I know I am not responsible for it. The burden of what took place that night is not mine to carry; ultimately, he is the only person at fault for the assault happening.
I’ve decided not to talk about it mainly because I don’t want to be a topic of conversation amongst people I don’t know. I don’t want people knowing my business, and therefore thinking they know me based on a single story. I don’t want my experience to be weaponized and reduced to a “clap back.” People often hyper-focus on what a perpetrator of assault or harassment has done, even with good intention, without being sensitive or cautious to what’s best for the survivor heal.
I’ve also chosen not to talk about the sexual assault because I don’t want to be shamed and attacked. I don’t want my conservative parents to judge me for having pre-marital sex. I don’t want people to question why I didn’t report it or why I didn’t speak up sooner. It’s enough that my abuser invalidates my experience; I don’t need it from the rest of the world too. On the other hand, I also want to avoid receiving inauthentic ‘we believe you’ sympathies. Notably, I have seen people claim to stand with victims only to go on and still hang out with their abusers. So instead of putting my story out to the public, I have chosen to work on what I endured privately. I receive professional help, and that’s enough for me for now.
People may rush to judge my decision by accusing me of selfishness. They might tell me how I am failing other women because he might abuse someone else in the future. My defense to potential critics is legal systems around the world often fail women regardless. Besides, it shouldn’t be a survivors’ sole responsibility to prevent further assaults from happening. Some survivors, like myself, aren’t ready to come forward with their story— and that’s okay too.
Also, if I speak up, I may have a few supporters. My story may trend amongst my community, whether digital or in-person, for a few days. However, time will pass, people will forget, and his life will likely go back to normal. People may even forget he is an abuser, but they will never stop seeing me as a victim. I have, consequently, seen this story play out multiple times. I have held my friends’ hands as they stood up and spoke out about their own experiences with being sexually assaulted. Only to have to be their shoulder to cry on when the world was cruel and ruthless in its response to their stories.
I applaud the survivors who are brave enough to share their ordeals. Their courage is awe-inspiring, and I think what they are doing is impressive. I, unfortunately, might never be able to vocalize such a traumatic incident. I do understand the choice to not speak out is a privilege. However, he tried to take away my power that night, and I took it back by choosing silence. I have decided to heal, and I have picked myself. There is no better way of taking back my power than determining how to deal with my trauma on my own terms.
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