Rewriting the Narrative: An Exercise in the Reclamation of Power
by Katelynn Mauro
Would you testify in court, reliving the trauma of the experience just to watch your rapist walk free? According to Safeline.org, survivors say that testifying against their attackers is “like being raped twice” because they have to revisit horrible memories of the attack, usually with no repercussions for the rapist. Four out of five assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, and 47% of attackers are friends of the victims, probably people they trust. It is sickening that rapists know they will probably get away with raping, so they betray the trust of their female friends and treat them as if they are subhuman, simply in existence for male pleasure and amusement.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or rainn.org, 98% of rapists never spend a day in jail. Let that sink in. 98%, almost a complete 100% of attackers get away with their crime. Not all assaults are reported, 68% to be exact. You can imagine how difficult it must be to come forward with an accusation, especially when most women know that their attacker will most likely never be punished for the horrific crime they committed.
The victims are in fact human, and they suffer from serious mental illnesses as a result of the assault. Victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression than people who haven’t been attacked, six times more likely to suffer from PTSD, thirteen times more likely to abuse alcohol, twenty six times more likely to abuse drugs, and four times more likely to contemplate suicide (rainn.org). All of this is despicable when you think about the attacker, who not only gets away with his crime, but gets the satisfaction of knowing he can do this again and again because the law is on his side. Mental illness and mental health are so stigmatized and ignored in this country and women who are victims of sexual assault (one in of three women, 44% of which are under age 18) are left to fight silent battles with little to no support. Even if they were to present an accusation, they could be met with judgement, blame, and even dismissal from the people they trusted enough to confide in. It is very complicated and survivors need to be made aware that there are resources for them to reach out to, including counseling and group chats with other survivors, which can provide some much needed closure and a support system of other survivors.
As the campaign Enough Abuse says, enough is enough. I’ve lived in fear of men my whole life ever since the abuse I endured as a child. A predator decided to exercise his power over me, a child of only five years old and he continued the abuse throughout my childhood. He never paid for his crimes, just like 98% of rapists, and like all the victims the justice system has failed, I’ve watched my story and my voice fade into the background, an event that is commonplace and normalized in our culture.
My voice, my power and my soul was taken from me before I even knew they existed. I was never able to be a child, and I cannot look back fondly at my past because there is so much anger, pain, and darkness. My job now is to pick up the pieces and to put my story out there, so that women and girls can feel powerful and like they are being listened to, like someone cares about their pain and giving them justice. Listen to me and I will listen to you; together we can reclaim our power and ensure that future generations will have the knowledge and skills to end the cycles of abuse. By telling our stories, we are taking control over our own narratives, we are becoming educated in the skills we need to heal and to heal our culture. As a child my voice was too soft, but now I am screaming I am here, I am important, and I am my own.
There are many online organizations like rainn.org and safehelpline.org that have resources for survivors, including information for professional therapy and anonymous phone calls with people who can be there for the survivors who are too uncomfortable to be face to face with someone. Services like this are very beneficial for survivors who feel like their voices were stolen from them, and now they have access to safe spaces where their stories can be told. Coalitions and groups like nomore.org and enoughabuse.org bring together people who want to open a dialogue about the abuse and to “bring together parents, professionals, adult survivors, concerned citizens, elected leaders, policymakers and funders to engage them in this historic movement” (nomore.org). Movements like this are very significant because an issue that has forever been swept under the rug is finally being discussed, and we as a people need to continue to express how very unacceptable the abuse is.
I want all women like me who are dealing with the aftermath of abuse to remember one thing; you are not alone. I see you, I hear you, and one day we will all reclaim the lives that were taken from us. We are important and our emotions and mental health are valid, everyday is a battle but be optimistic for the future. With all of these resources available to us, we can work through the anger, pain, and self blame that scar our pasts. One day our daughters will be powerful and fearless, ready to take on the world because we are their mothers, and we are equipped to end the abuse.