I went into this year thinking about growth and recovery, but until recently I didn’t understand what that would really look like for me.
Today was Temple’s own Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence, an annual event during which male-identified allies don high heels and march in solidarity with victims of sexual assault and gender violence.
The idea is based on the old saying that you can’t truly understand another’s experience “until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” The event is meant to serve as a silly way to start a serious conversation: one about sexualized violence towards women and other gender crimes.
The idea of support and solidarity is an important one, especially on a college campus. It is important that we are all capable of having this conversation, supporting our friends and loved ones and recognizing when we need to step in. It is especially important that we listen to victims and truly hear them.
Until recently, I was often unable to talk about my experiences. I felt ashamed of the things that happened to me. I felt embarrassed and weak. Most of all, I felt like I deserved it. I thought if I talked to anyone about it, they would confirm what I already knew: I deserved my abuse. It was my fault. So, like many survivors I stayed quiet. Like many survivors, I refused to take legal action against my abuser. Like many survivors, I see my abuser at parties or in class or in the grocery store and like many survivors, I live with the consequences of trauma.
I spent years in therapy treating presumed depression and anxiety and never once mentioned the trauma I experienced. I never even had the courage to check a box. But with growth as my goal I am finally starting to deal with my PTSD, take control of my life and my body and most importantly, let go of the idea that my abuse was my fault.
I am here for survivors of sexual assault and gender violence, no matter who they are. I’m here for so-called “crazy ex-girlfriends” and survivors who were drunk. I’m here for survivors who were mistreated by people they loved and trusted. I’m here for survivors who have complicated feelings about their abusers. I’m here for survivors who are still searching for answers: there are none, but you can still recover. It was not your fault. I’m here for survivors who are afraid to call their experience what it was. I’m here for survivors who think their cases “weren’t bad enough” to be taken seriously. I’m here for all of you. I see you, I believe you, I support you.
I am beginning to feel resolved about my experiences. I can talk about them. I have an amazing support system of friends and family and a boyfriend who supports me, listens to me and understands why sometimes I flinch when he reaches out to touch me.
I do not feel resolved when I think of the countless people who still feel scared, alone and helpless. And so I stand in solidarity.
Temple friends, review Temple’s policy and procedures regarding sexual assault here. Learn Tuttleman Counseling Services walk-in hours and ask to see a SACE counselor or ask for information about the support group for survivors of sexual assault. Remember to keep the Wellness Resource Center in mind as a resource as well.
Other friends, make sure you know your school/community’s individual sexual assault/domestic abuse resources in case you or a loved one needs them.