It saddens me that there continues to be harsh treatment and judgement of survivors and minimizing of a crime that has the potential to rob a person of so much- their dignity, their safety and their trust in the world. Sexual assault, whether in childhood or in adulthood, can impair a person’s ability to have meaningful long term relationships; it can also impact all areas of functioning. Can you imagine trying to get through the day haunted by flashbacks, always on guard for potential danger or feeling dirty and ashamed? Can you imagine being consumed with thoughts of self-blame and trying to make sense of why it happened? Can you imagine the sense of powerlessness and rage you might feel at having your whole world shattered and feeling like there is little recourse for this horrific violation?
When will society stop blaming victims and stop making excuses for perpetrators? When will we realize that this is everyone’s responsibility? I believe this change has to start at home. As a parent and a therapist I am so aware of the importance of teaching my children about their rights and boundaries but am also equally aware of the importance of teaching them to respect other people’s boundaries. They are learning that unwanted touch is never okay and people’s bodies should not be objectified or sexualized. I am trying to raise my son to be a leader to challenge any inappropriate behaviour he may witness as he moves into puberty, such as harassing comments or snapping or checking for a girls’ bra strap. I’ve talked with girls who are now women about the impact of these “minor” acts that are often excused away as “boys being boys”. I want to empower him to be an ally for girls and women. I also think it is important for young people to learn to trust their own bodies and do only what feels comfortable whether that means taking risks or deciding not to do something. This can help build the confidence to say “no” when feeling pressured and increase their ability to trust their gut instincts. Most importantly we need to teach our children that no matter what happens to them or how others treat them, they are worthy and valuable. If, God forbid, something were to happen, they need to know it is the act that is shameful. They have nothing to be ashamed of. Often, it is shame that is the biggest barrier for healing.
If you are a survivor or if you care deeply for a survivor, be assured that there is nothing shameful in being a survivor, instead there is incredible strength. We recognize the justice system can sometimes be overwhelming. Our agency has many tools that can help ease your suffering. Please know you are not alone and help is available. We stand in solidarity with all survivors and their loved ones.