During our research work, we traveled across the province of Saskatchewan and listened to many survivors’ share the reality of their experiences with sexual violence.
One of the recurring themes in our conversations was that many survivors never told anyone about their experience for fear of not being believed. They shared with us that it was one of the main reasons that they didn’t report it or tell a family member or friend what had happened to them.
Right now, I want you to reflect upon a time in your life when you went through something that was really difficult. Imagine if you didn’t have anyone to share that experience with? Or even worse, the person you told didn’t believe that it happened to you?
Many survivors of sexual violence are denied the truth about their experience.
For those of us who have not had a direct experience with sexual violence, it’s hard to comprehend how this could happen to someone. Often, this can lead to developing a stigma or bias about the reality of sexual violence, because we haven’t learned how to support someone through a traumatic experience.
The thought of sexual violence is fearful in itself so it’s much easier for us to avoid having conversations about it, to ignore the reality that someone we love has experienced it, or to pretend that it isn’t happening at all.
But it is happening.
And when we stay silent, we are allowing the stories of survivors’ to remain silent too.
So now, it is our time to stand with survivors. To be courageous with them in the face of what feels like the unimaginable, because when we do, something powerful happens.
We raise the voices of those who have long been silenced and we remind them that their power has always been theirs to hold even in the moments when it feels like it has been completely taken away.
We validate the truth about their experiences and we let them know that it was never their fault, that they are loved, that they are worthy, and that despite it all, they have survived.
Right now, imagine that the survivor you have chosen to stand with is your mother, your father, your daughter, your son, your sister, your brother, your partner, or your best friend.
Imagine that they are standing in front of you and you are looking in their eyes and you say, “I believe you.”
You have the power to change the story about sexual violence by saying those three words.
Here’s how you can create a safe space for a survivor to share their story: http://sassk.ca/how-to-respond-to-a-sexual-assault-disclosure/