Yesterday marked the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. End the Silence Campaign is committed to providing survivors with a place to tell their stories, as well as increase the number of REAL stories told by the people who actually experienced them. A month devoted to awareness about sexual assault is the perfect opportunity for more survivor voices to be heard.
So, in honor of this important month, End the Silence Campaign will be featuring a new writer or artist each day. A new poem, story, or artwork will be published on the site, so stay posted! If you would like your submission to be considered, feel free to submit it online. If your story, poem, or artwork is not featured during SAAM, we will be sure to post it as soon as possible!
Check out our first feature, Kacey Coffin. In her powerful letter to the man who raped her, she writes:
“I wanted to start this by saying dear and your name, but I don’t feel as if you have earned the right to be called by your name. There is a concept of your true name, and to know someone’s true name is to know their soul. You have not earned the right to be called by any name. When you shatter the soul of a child and leave her to put the pieces back together over 22 plus years, you no longer have the right to your own soul…” Read the rest of Kacey’s letter here.
Four survivors share their stories, poetry, and art about finding hope after violence. In her non-fiction story, “The Truths We Can and Cannot Bear,” Kristin Brumm writes:
“Here is what I know. Each of us – daughter, father, lover, friend – walks the earth carrying the burden of certain painful truths, and at times we must set down our load. But the earth is patient and holds for us the truths we cannot abide and returns them when we are ready to bear them, if ever we are.
She guards our dreams and the quick tumbling years that stretch into the past to trace the fractured lines of our long-forgotten selves. She sees the broken lenses through which we view life and the means by which we take the measure, or mismeasure, of those we love, and looks upon all this without judgment, for only she knows the long history of the truths we’ve been asked to bear. The earth, who holds for us our hopes, who once held for me the lost pieces of myself, who now holds the ashes of my mother and father, who also holds the promise of riches yet to unfold.
From her I have learned many things. She has taught me how to untangle my truth from the easy words of those around me, how to retrieve it from the deepest reaches of darkness and breath life back into it. Because of her, I know that beneath what passes as restlessness is an unknown strength; that all these years later, I still belong to the wild. I know that to gain a foothold, we need to trust the slow unwinding of grace; and that in order to take flight, we merely need to let go.”
Check out the new work below:
Self Portrait as a Victim by Snail
The Truths We Can and Cannot Bear by Kristin Brumm
My Story by Kayli
You Are There by Tracy L
Caught by Lee Ann Walker
Human Rights Watch reports on a new US bill, the International Violence against Women Act. This proposed bill could help women and violence survivors around the world gain access to medical services, victim’s support, relief, justice, and hope. Read more:
“Violence against women is a worldwide crisis, and a bill scheduled to come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, the International Violence against Women Act, would improve the way US foreign assistance is provided to address such violence. The US Violence against Women Act and several reauthorizations created critical funding, strategies, and structures to prevent violence against women and girls and to support survivors. While this law has been immensely helpful in the United States, foreign assistance to combat violence against women in other countries has been patchy, meager, and uncoordinated.
The International Violence against Women Act presents a comprehensive plan for US foreign assistance to prevent and remedy violence against women and girls. A structure would be created to support more coordinated and intensified local efforts in up to 20 countries to improve the full range of services that survivors need. It would promote jobs and other economic support for women, and strengthen efforts to change social attitudes that condone violence against women.
The bill has important provisions for addressing violence against women during and after armed conflict. It would support trauma counseling, medical assistance, legal services, and economic opportunity programs for women in countries affected by conflict.
After each gut-wrenching interview with a sexual violence survivor that we do as researchers into human rights violations, we walk away feeling angry and sad, but also hopeful. Hopeful because of the resilience of these survivors, and their determination to speak out to stop these crimes. Hopeful because at least some will reach organizations that can help them mend their health and their lives. Hopeful because we know we can do something to support their efforts. Passing this bill is an important step in that direction.”
Read the rest of the article by clicking here.
We have just posted 6 new stories and poems from 5 very brave survivors. Take a moment to check out some of the amazing work below. And stay posted as we continue to raise funds to produce our print publication. We truly appreciate your patience!
Tara Cameron – The Innocence Thief
Debby Willett – On the backseat of a station wagon
Tiffani – My Story
Cori – Bits of Stone
Thanks again for checking out End the Silence Campaign! We truly appreciate your support.
The abuse began when I was 7 years old. I use to believe my grandpa when he would tell me we are going to play a game that all granddaughters and grandpas play. He would tell me the game was really fun but it was a secret game. I never had fun but it was definitely a secret.
It all started the night my mom was in a serious car wreck. She was rushed to the ER and Grandma went to stay with her leaving me and my brothers alone with grandpa. My brothers and Grandpa decided I could have the only room in the house and they would all three bunk in the living room. AboutI was awakened by the bedroom door being opened and grandpa sneaking in. He told me to be quiet while we played a . He began to undress me and touch me in places that I didn’t know I wasn’t suppose to be touched in. Before he left the room he made sure to tell me not to speak a word of our game to anyone.
This continued to happen for about 2 years. Then one of my friends told me about some man being arrested for touching little girls and I began to wonder is what he doing to me ok. The next time he came to play his game I told him I was going to tell my mom because this game wasn’t fun or right. He told me if I told he would kill my family. So I kept quiet and it continued for 2 more years and I got the nerve onewhile helping grandpa make coffee to tell him that when I went to church I was going to tell the Preacher what he was doing to me. I never went to church that day because as soon as I spoke those words he threw a cup of coffee at me and punched me in the stomach. Then he said “I am the adult and you are the child. I know right from wrong and you are suppose to do whatever I say.”
So it kept happening because I kept letting it happen until the day I turned 13. I went to school and spilled my guts to the guidance counselor who assured me I was right to tell her and she contacted DSS. I went home that day and told mom everything. She didn’t believed me and called me a nasty whore who was trying to ruin her family and told me to get the hell out of her house. So I ran away. At this age of course the cops are going to bring you back home so I refused to go back and made a scene so the cops wouldn’t take me back there. I was taken to a local hospital and then put in to a mental hospital where I under went pysch evaluations for 1 month and took every medicine know to earth. I left there with the diagnosis of PTDS, Anxiety Disorder, and Mood Disorder. I was put into foster care. I stayed there until I was tired of theraphy and being slapped with names of all kinds of mental disorders. So I began running away from there which resulted in me being put back in a hospital for about 1 or 2 weeks.
I finally gave up fighting the world and moved back home. To this day mom still doesn’t believe me, I still fight flashbacks constantly and I have never forgiven myself nor my grandfather. I never had my day in court because DSS investigated. They went to his house with the cops got him to confess and that was it. Nothing happen. I tell the truth and he confesses and gets to walk free. He has the ability to hurt another helpless little girl and there is nothing I can do to stop him.
I spit out the peel
when I heard the jury fill the room
my mouth puckered from the tart stab
of lemons against my tongue, bitter tidings
the foreshadow of two words:
not guilty, they had said, about you
but did they know
you weren’t innocent, either?
at the verdict, my dry mouth turned
to sahara sand
wishing there’d been more marks,
maybe a body or two…
or perhaps that you’d broken every bone in my body
maybe left me with visible scars,
my life arranged in evidence bags
on the prosecutor’s table.
the courtroom adjourns
and I stay stuck on the wooden benches
writing your name on
the soft palate of my mouth.
I will lie quiet
until he is finished
until he dies inside of me
until his poison swims through me
like oil through water
I will lie quiet
as I bleed on the sheets
as I beg for a more permanent sleep
as I wish myself into something frozen
that can’t be melted by his heat
(I will NOT
let him see me cry-
that rain is mine
the only way to make myself clean
and he will not take that from me)
I will lie quiet
until the static takes effect
until the storm in my stomach subsides
until it makes me as empty
as I need to be
I will lie quiet
until he finds me
unmelted by his heat
lost in a permanent sleep
lost in my quiet
I’ve decided after thirty years of suppressing my feelings of shame, guilt and being afraid, that it was time to break the silence of my abuse. I am sharing my story as a healing process for myself, but to give other survivors a hope for recovery.
If I had a chance to go back in time and redo any part of my life, would I? Or If I only knew back then what I know now would I change any part of my past? My answer would be no. Although I would never willingly put myself through the pain and trials again, I wouldn’t change the outcome. If I wouldn’t have gone through these times, I would have never become the stronger person I am today. My wounds have healed, but the scars remain as a simple reminder that something good can emerge from painful situations. I could never have envisioned that my life would be forever changed by various experiences.
At the age of nine my parents divorced. A girlfriend of mine, thinking she was being comforting, molested me. This happened on several occasions and deep inside I knew it was wrong. I did not understand the complexity of the issue, so it was easier to stop being friends with her. If we were not friends, than it would stop and go away. I was confused and ashamed, so I told nobody. I wanted to forget, so I buried those feelings deep inside. At this point, I was forced to grow up at the age of nine.
Not only was I sexually abused, I was also emotionally and physically abused by my family members. Because of the abuse, I had low self-esteem, which led to having trouble fitting in at school, and I eventually became rebellious. I began using alcohol to cover up the pain. My life continued to spin out of control, and at one point I had thoughts of suicide, even threatening to kill myself. I was crying out and thought my actions showed all my pain. But because I was so good at hiding my feelings everyone thought I was fine.
My abuse did not stop, but continued into my adulthood. A month after graduating from high school I attended a party with a friend of mine and was raped. What was left of my spirit died that night, along with all of my dreams. To make matters worse, when I got home my mom yelled at me because I got back late. I cried for months afterwards. At this point I decided that no one cared and that no guy would ever want someone like me. The one thing that made me special was now gone. I felt abandoned by everyone. For the next six years I functioned in the world, but mostly without feeling; merely surviving. I relied only on myself and I trusted no one.
At the age of 23 I married my first husband and soon afterwards he began being abusive. My self-esteem was so low that I stopped caring about myself and others. Now at another low point in my life, I contemplated suicide. But somehow, I dug deep down and found the courage to pick myself up. We tried counseling with no results, so after two years of marriage it ended in divorce. I decided to try counseling again, this time with a woman who was a Christian. Not only did she help me see all the things I needed to work on, but most importantly was a great witness to me. For the first time, I saw that I blamed God for letting all these things happen to me. Why would a loving God let these horrible things happen to such a good person?
I knew my built up anger and resentment was from never dealing with all the pain from my experiences. I went through a period where I wanted vengeance on all the people who had hurt me. It was their fault and I wanted them to pay for what they had done. As I grew from my experiences, I decided that it was my choice to be the victim or I could be victorious over my trials. I finally decided that in order for me to ever be happy I needed to let go and forgive the people who had let me down and hurt me so tremendously.
Forgiving them seemed easy, because I knew they would eventually have to go before God and be judged for their wrongdoings. But the hardest part was forgiving myself. I still harbored some self-blame and anger for putting myself in those situations. But I finally realized that no one has complete control over every circumstance, and that it was not my fault for the other person’s bad behavior.
In the last ten years I have made a lot of progress, but I am far from perfect. I struggle from time to time remembering my experiences. As a result, I suffer from depression and anxiety, and it has taken a long time to trust and love again. And though I have dealt with a lot of my pain, the scars remain and are a reminder of the past. Because of my experiences I find it hard to make friends, as my basic response when someone gets too close to me is to push them away.
I have learned that with God all things are possible. Without my faith, I would probably not be here today. I now understand that bad things happen to good people, and it is not as a punishment from God. I feel that it’s not what happens to you, but how you react and deal with the trials in your life. You can let them consume you, or you can decide to overcome the adversity.
Writing this has been the hardest thing I have had to do in my life. I have known for years God has wanted me to use my experiences to inspire others. Doing this has given me a great amount of healing. Just recently, God is teaching me that my experience was not just about me. It was so much bigger than my pain and hurt. It made me see that I needed to make a stand for all the people who can’t speak out. I know there are many people out there who need to know that they are not alone and that there is hope for recovery. My heart hopes that from sharing my experiences I may inspire someone else. For if I help just one person then everything I’ve been through has not been in vain. My heart feels such sadness and passion for people who have been affected by such horrible injustices of the world. There are a lot of people who have been sexually abused that you may know, but they are so ashamed, powerless, and damaged from the experience that they are unable to share what happened. In a sense, my healing process has just begun. I’ve had to look back on my past and see how my experiences have effected me and my relationships. And I realized that I became this unlovable person to protect my heart from letting anything hurt me again.
I am also learning what the true meaning of love is. Now I understand that love isn’t so much a feeling, but a choice. The perfect example is how God loves us even when we are undeserving of his love. This means loving other people unconditionally.
Though I’ve made much progress I still have a ways to go in my journey to heal. I don’t know how long it will take, and I might not ever fully get over the tragic experiences. My goal is to continue sharing my story giving all the glory to God. I believe He will give me the strength to stand up and speak for survivors of abuse so they can see there is hope for the future.