Posted in mental health, My Story, Sexual Violence, Trauma

It’s great that you care but be more aware (A rant about raising awareness of sexual violence)

Okay, so as it states in the title this is kind of going to be a rant. I didn’t expect to react so strongly to something seemingly so small but I have and it needs to be spoken about.

The triggering situation?

A video being made by a club that I am part of in regards to sexual violence on university campuses.

The issue?

There were ten of us standing in a line with a certain number of people stepping forward to visually represent each statistic. I get it gives a shocking visual of what that statistic looks like but the stepping forward was randomly assigned to fill the number or create a certain aesthetic for the camera; it was not in regards to lived experience.

Now I understand that not everyone wants to share their story, maybe they don’t want certain people to know, or just not at that place yet but to make a video involving some people that you know are affected by the issue and still randomly assign based on numerical values is insensitive. At least give the option for those affected to have some control e.g. we are aware that these statistics may be relevant to some of you so if you want to step forward for specific ones let us know and we will fill in the gaps.

Now I have already mentioned in this blog that I have experienced sexual assault whilst at university…my point? Well… I was chosen to step forward for 70% of female students and graduates have experienced Sexual Violence: Fine. I then had to step back for a statistic regarding sexual harassment: Fine, didn’t bother me. I then had to step back for 48% had experienced Sexual Assault: Not Okay.

Why was it not okay? Because I was lying. Because it was true for me and I wasn’t being allowed to express that. It felt like a punch in the stomach. I felt like a fraud, undoing everything I had been through the last few years. I know people that might view the video would potentially be aware of my situation and I couldn’t allow for it to suddenly all seem like a lie when it wasn’t. I had to say something. I had to ask if I could step forward for the ones that resonated with me.

I know the video wasn’t about me or my experience but at the same time I couldn’t ignore my experience. I couldn’t stand there and pretend something hadn’t happened to me. It is more than a statistic; it is my reality.

Now this video is just one part of a whole campaign being run by some members of this society so I offered to lend my voice to any other parts of the campaign if relevant. I said I’d be happy to talk about the issue of reporting and why it’s so difficult to come forward and give information of certain charity services I have used. I mentioned this in hopes that if it was relevant I would be able to validate other people’s experiences and decisions surrounding whether to report or not, and to encourage others to seek help by explaining exactly how a service can help, the type of support they offer and what it is like/what to expect.

I was met with a response that seemed slightly condescending. They explained that they wanted to focus on humanising statistics and get people to understand the severity of the issue. They will also be holding a panel about what the uni/SU are doing to combat this and said that I would be welcome to attend and be part of the discussion after they have asked their questions. I am aware of exactly what the university are doing because I have had meetings with them myself, have spoken to several staff/su members and written my own letter to the university (albeit anonymously). I have been involved in this need for change.

They also stated that there were no plans for personal testimonies as they don’t want to trigger anyone who may not have been able to seek help and that they want to demonstrate that a fact on paper is actually a real person. However, I feel their approach contradicts their aim. If a fact on paper is a real person then why not find real people or at least explain the aim and get their involvement/opinions? Using a human body to represent a statistic does not show it is a real person- it is just another way of representing that statistic. How can it be confirmed to be real if there is no real voice?

Why not gather a consenting group, read out a statistic and then ask who in that room is affected by it? What is the representation in that room?

If its 70% of a group of students note it as equivalent to:

Out of a squad of 14 in Netball around 9 or 10 will be affected.

Or, that’s equivalent to 14 students in your seminar of 20.

And what about hearing peoples’ voices? What about having actual people affected say ‘I am more than a statistic, I am a real person who’s had a real experience’ or ‘I am more than a statistic, I am your teammate/classmate/buddy/friend/neighbour’

Why have females representing males? Why have cis females representing those that are non-binary?

Am I wrong to have a problem with this? Am I wrong to feel hurt by this? That by trying to do good and raise awareness I feel like there is a slight lack of awareness of how to handle such information? That it partly feels insensitive?

I don’t fully understand why I’ve had this reaction, but at the same time I do. I know this probably doesn’t make sense but what are your thoughts?

Ps. These statistics came from the campaign and research of #RevoltSexualAssault

Posted in mental health, My Story, Sexual Violence, Trauma

Torment (a poem about mental health and trauma)

Torment

It’s in the past.
It’s in the present.
It’s in my memory.
It’s in my thoughts.
It’s in my every day.
It’s been two years but sometimes it feels like yesterday.
Sometimes, even like it’s happening now.

November it happened.
From December I’m haunted.
Nightmares,
Flashbacks,
Intrusive thoughts,
Intense emotions;
Tormented.

One day it happens,
One month it starts,
Next month it continues,
One year still going,
Two years still tormented.

Forget it.
I can’t.
Block it out.
I try.

It’s a torment, my trauma, I cannot lie.

By TwilightRising

Posted in My Story, Rape, Reporting, Sexual Assault, Sexual Violence, Trauma, University

Everybody Has A Story That Needs To Be Told

Everyone has a story. That’s what I believe. A story that people will benefit from hearing. It doesn’t have to be long, grand or extraordinary-it can still be a story that can be learned from or provide comfort to another by the reassurance that they are not alone.

I want to share my journey because it is something I feel that needs to be spoken about more something that people should feel more comfortable talking about be less ashamed of.

My journey will resonate with many people-probably far too many people. This is because sexual violence is far too prevalent. In fact, recent movements such as #metoo although helping to get the issue out in the open and providing comfort that nobody is alone in their experience, it also reveals a startling reality.

Once when I briefly share the fact that had I been a victim of sexual violence, the other person didn’t know what to say and thought that potentially ‘I’m sorry’ was a far too common response. What is in fact far too common response that I received after sharing this information is ‘oh I’ve been through something similar’, ‘my friend experienced something like that’ or, the likes of ‘I know so many girls who have been through something like that’. It reveals the unsettling reality that sexual violence happens too often, to women, children and yes, men too. The victim can be any race, gender or sexuality-the perpetrator too.

The conviction rate for sexual offences is far too low. Speaking at reporting it does not guarantee justice and an empowering experience. It’s too easy to feed into a victim blaming narrative, especially when media outlets often only report on the very few cases of false accusations, or on how being accused of this crime is affecting the alleged perpetrator’s life and especially how the victim can’t possibly be telling the truth because ‘he/she’ is not the type of person who would do that-it can’t possibly be true.

Sexual violence far too often comes down to a he said she said type of narrative. But I can honestly say nobody wants to identify as a victim of sexual violence. Being a victim of this crime is not easy-the acts involved can be disputed as something consensual, that they wanted it because sexual activity is something many indulge in. A victim of knife crime is never-I hope never- told they wanted to be stabbed or that they enjoyed it. You wouldn’t tell a victim of a mugging that they just gave it away, or tell a shop owner that was threatened so emptied their till to avoid an even worse outcome that it’s no longer a robbery because they ‘gave in’, or gave the money away because they were scared to something worse was going to happen.

Sexual crimes often have the problem of not having enough evidence. Victims get persecuted when they keep quiet and when they speak up.

‘Why don’t you tell someone?’

‘You should go to the police’

‘why didn’t you go to the police earlier?’

‘Why didn’t you say something earlier?’

That ‘it can’t be that bad if you’re talking about it’

‘are you sure it was that?’

‘If it happened to me I would have…’

If you speak up you are criticised about how long it took, why now? Then subjected to potential judgement and victim blaming. You are exposed, vulnerable and ready for everybody to comment on what you say and how you act and whether it conforms to their idea of a sexual violence victim. I feel sometimes people forget that everybody is different and that trauma affects everyone in different ways.

If you keep quiet you often feel alone, left with your thoughts, in denial and potentially prolonging the inevitable. You get asked why didn’t say anything earlier but you felt embarrassed, ashamed, didn’t know who to talk to, or were busy trying to deny that that was even what happened and ignore it.

No matter what action you take it never seems to be good enough, or the right one.

Experiencing it is terrifying, talking about it is terrifying, reporting it is terrifying. Nothing about it is appealing.

People are becoming more open about talking about mental health but talking about trauma from sexual violence is still scary and potentially taboo. Yes, more and more people are speaking up and speaking out but it is also revealing how much victim blaming is ingrained in some people’s culture. It is still scary and difficult and probably a lot of people are less open to talking about it. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point but I feel like I should have no shame about having experienced sexual violence. I should be able to talk about it because it is necessary people shouldn’t feel caught off-guard or scared when hearing about it. But perhaps, one of the reasons it’s so difficult to talk about is not just because the act itself was traumatic but because it is so personal, such an intimate violation and because it can happen to absolutely anyone.

There is often the fear of the stranger rape but in 90% of cases the perpetrators known to the victim. And the fear and concern around false accusations, which are in the extreme minority-it is a rare occurrence.

Perhaps it is naïveté, or innocence, or even lack of education or awareness of the prevalence of the issue but it never occurred to me that I could/would become a victim. I knew about being careful who bought you drinks, not leaving drinks lying around in case they got spiked etc.

You think if it was to happen to you, you would know that that was what it was. It would be a black-and-white situation. It would be crystal clear. It would be forceful, you would say no-put up a fight. But the thing is it can happen in many ways and you can never plan or foresee how you will act and react in a traumatic situation.

I’d have thought going out drinking with friends I would be fine, talking to different people on my course would be fine and that one more drink would be okay. I was a sensible person. I don’t believe in one-night-stands but it was other people’s choices on what they did. I was a virgin. I’d never had a boyfriend, I’d never done anything sexual. I kissed someone before – and in a club, but that was it-what happened in the club stayed in the club. If they wanted something more, I always ALWAYS said no. That is why it never made sense.

The situation I found myself in at university is an example of one that happens far too often. Universities have difficulty tackling it. Only in 2016 were new rules and guidance for universities brought in on how they might be able to deal with these situations. But it is still not enough.

xxx