You know who we are.
We are your neighbors. Your friends and your enemies. Your students and your teachers. Your bosses and your coworkers. Your soul mates and your lovers. Your spouses and your exes.
We work with you, go to school with you, commune with you and socialize with you. We share the same beliefs, and we disagree with you. We get along with you and we don’t.
We are strong and confident, weak and afraid.
We are women and we are men. Old and young. Gay and straight. Bi and trans
We are famous and unknown.
And we are successful and destitute.
Our group is very large and diverse, but we all have something in common.
We were all sexually assaulted or abused.
And too many of us are locked in a shroud of secrecy.
The who, what, when and how is unique to each story. Some of us were children. Others, adults.
But what we all have experienced is insurmountable shame – shame that is not warranted.
We were all victims. But. Victims have nothing for which to be ashamed.
And when we learn that simple truth, we become survivors.
That very simple truth, however, can be buried deep within our psyche and suppressed by fear, pain, anger, misunderstanding, disbelief, judgment, and secrecy. Shoveling away the dirt can take decades, and emerging from the shadows is anything but simple.
But when we find our courage to speak the truth and tell our story to family, friends, professionals or even perfect strangers, we can step out of the darkness and no longer hide.
Because we are no longer ashamed.
We are proud – proud that we had the strength to be honest and own what happened as something someone else did – not something we caused.
Turning taboo into the truth liberates the spirit, and exchanging anger for acceptance brings peace. But the ultimate reason for revealing our story should not be for avenging the perpetrator but for healing ourselves.
So, if you’re not one of us, I implore you to spare your judgment. Please think before you speak. Educate yourself and learn what happens when abuse or assault occur.
And if you are one of us – if you haven’t already – seek the help you need to turn your shame into survival. Find someone who will listen to, understand, and guide you. Embrace your story and speak your truth — in your own way.
Then. You can turn your darkness into light. And finally breathe.