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A Note to Survivors Who Aren’t Ready to Share Their Sexual Assaults

A Note to Survivors Who Aren’t Ready to Share Their Sexual Assaults

Allure
By Hayley Macmillen
October 13, 2017

Excerpt Below:

There has been a lot of talk this week and last about the bravery of those who have come forward to say they experienced sexual harassment or assault by former Hollywood studio head Harvey Weinstein. From A-list actresses to former employees of a man who now stands accused of decades of manipulating and brutalizing women, they have shared their stories with grace, strength, and, yes, courage.

But because they are brave for going public does not mean you are weak if you do not.

It is no wonder survivors of sexual violence often choose not to report, or to speak publicly about their experiences even outside of the criminal justice system. If they do, they may face retaliation by their attackers. They may not be believed by law enforcement or their friends, family, or community. They may be subjected to scrutiny and forced to relive their attacks as others pick apart the details of what happened, question their credibility, or locate the blame with them rather than with the accused. Especially if their attacker is an intimate partner, they may be economically dependent on them, and survival may understandably seem like a higher priority than justice — whatever “justice” ends up looking like: The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network reports only an estimated three percent of rapists ever spend a day in prison. The rest walk free.

Jennifer Wyse, supervising social worker at Safe Horizon, stresses that every survivor’s path forward is theirs to decide. “For those who aren’t comfortable or ready or wanting to disclose, that’s totally okay and totally normal,” she says. “Everyone’s entitled to make their own choices, especially when in that act of abuse or violence, their choice has been taken away from them.

She adds that members of marginalized communities especially may feel the pressure of representing those communities, and fear that if they come forward, they will focus negative attention on a group already dealing with racism, transphobia, classism, ableism, or other forms of oppression. “We know that every survivor is unique, every experience is different,” she says. “Speaking to a counselor at our organization, and I’m sure many other survivor support organizations, it’s really about taking your power back and doing what’s going to be right for you.

Everyone has the right to making their own choices in regards to their victimization and how it’s impacted them, and that would include [whether or not to come forward],” she continues. Otherwise, there is “pressure on survivors to be the ones to stop the violence, when really the person who is doing it is responsible.

Surviving assault is nothing to be ashamed of, and counseling — in addition to support from friends, family, and community — can help survivors shed the shame they may feel. But as for “should”? People should speak up when their friends joke about rape. People should step in — safely — to assist someone experiencing sexual abuse. And first and foremost, people should not commit sexual assault. For those who experience sexual assault, “should” is not part of the equation. Speaking up may indeed be courageous. It may be part of your healing; it may lead to deserved consequences for your attacker. But only you can decide if, when, and how to do it.

Read the original article here.

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