“An observer can’t tell if a person is silent and still because inner life has stalled or because inner life is transfixingly busy.” —Susanna Kaysen, Girl Interrupted
I guess I like this quote because it is a reminder that it is really hard to discern the inner workings of a person by the facade displayed on the outside. Take me, for example. In writing my story I went around and asked both friends and strangers to describe me as best they could even if they were to take a guess based on what they knew.
Some of the answers I received were free-spirited, a dancer, intelligent, brunette, kind, Indian, a female, a college student, strong, stable, strange, stubborn, a California girl, optimistic...the list goes on and on. But among this variety of labels an important one was left out: never once did anyone guess that I was a rape survivor.
No one knew that April 1, 1994, is a day that changed my life forever. On that day four armed men broke into my home, robbed us, and raped me at gunpoint. No one realized that even now, certain smells and noises trigger painful flashbacks. That I still get nightmares, and that the memories of that night are imprinted on my mind forever.
On a more optimistic note, no one also realized that I took my assailants to court and won, that since my attack I have volunteered as a medical/legal advocate and speaker helping other survivors and educating the public about the reality of sexual violence.
If I were one of those friends or strangers picked out to describe me, I wouldn’t have guessed rape survivor as a label either. Why not? Because you never believe that those kinds of horrifying tragedies happen to an everyday average person.
It is always that person on the television miles away from you, or some prostitute working the street, or a person of a lower socio-economic background, or some “slut” who had too much to drink at a bar one night, or was wearing the “wrong” type of clothing.
But the truth is sexual violence happens to all types of people, it is non-discriminatory toward its victims. Nobody deserves it or “asks” for it; it is a violent crime that revolves around power and control.
My advice to the young women of today is to become educated about and aware of sexual violence, and also to become familiar with the resources out there and steps to take if you, your mother, sister, friend, or significant other were to become a victim. The path to eventually abolishing this crime and its devastating effects from society lies in the hands of the education and awareness of everyone.