In Our Own Words – Volume One , End the Silence Campaign’s first collection of stories, poetry, and art by survivors of sexual violence is here! In this collection, you will read accounts by men and women of all ages who have survived rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse and found hope for their lives and for the future. You will also see some breathtaking artwork that captures the complex range of emotions that survivors of sexual violence face. It is our hope that this collection will increase awareness about sexual violence, while inspiring and empowering anyone who finds comfort in these words. Thank you to everyone who submitted their work – we couldn’t do this without your support! If this collections inspires you, feel free to pass it along to anyone that you think could benefit. And as always, keep posting comments on the site and spreading the word!
We are getting closer to the release of End the Silence Campaign’s first collection of stories, poetry, and art created by survivors of sexual violence. It has been a journey putting the publication together and I am so excited to share it with you. I hope that it will be inspirational and powerful to everyone who reads it. We had so many submissions that we were unable to include everything in the first collection. It is my goal to include as many of the submissions as possible in an upcoming collection, but in the meantime I am posting many of them online! So stay posted as I add more stories, poetry, and art to the site! Thanks for all your support.
Here are some new poems!
Dayce Ruth – The Days
Jennifer J. Pasquale – Illusions of Dance
Joyce Collins – The Insects Swarm Over Me
Yotibar! – Fear
Here are some new stories and poems by survivors. Check them out, feel free to leave comments, and please keep spreading the word about End the Silence Campaign. Thanks for following ETS and stay posted!
M.L. Dickson – The End of the Innocence
“My journey into reality, self-discovery and truth has been painful and at times traumatic, but also enlightening, deeply spiritual and in the end, a blessing. I have new sense of calm since I began sharing my story and no longer live the lie that my family was “perfect.” No one has a perfect childhood, perfect life or perfect family. The sooner we are able to discuss these truths—as my hero Frederick Buechner says, “ and do a little tongue wagging”—the sooner we will be able to break the cycle of dysfunction. It is only by breaking the destructive cycle that we are able to do better for our children and future generations.”
Dawn Helmrich – The Journey
“It was that day, the air was crisp
My favorite time of year, fall,
I remember feeling so good
Walking, smelling the air
I was in such a happy place…
All at once it was over…”
Ashley McIntyre – Where Are My Legs?
“But now I need help. It’s hard to admit that I cannot do this on my own. It’s scary because a lot of people have already formed their opinions about what happened. Andrew’s friends still gossip about it to this day even though it’s years later and we’re in college. I never get a break from it. It never leaves my mind. So, I’m realizing that it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s necessary to let go of any concerns I have about what people think. This time, it’s about what I need, and what I want.”
Anonymous – A Letter to the Girl Who Came After Me
“Now I can’t preach to you because I loved him, too. I stayed with him, despite the humiliation and torment and pain. But you should know all the facts. The next time he tells you he cares about you, remember that mouth told me I was worthless and that no one would ever want me…”
C. Imani Williams – Sexual Violence in Lesbian Communities: Marginalized and Silenced
“The many smoke and mirrors that sexual assault hides behind in our community are being called out. As I continue to grow, stretch and heal I’m meeting people and learning of her~stories that are changing my life in positive ways. Womyn are miraculous in all of our glory. We short change ourselves when we cocoon and clique up to the point of excluding womyn who differ from our comfort zone.”
Rene Graham – The Unanswered Letter
“Angst filled the room as the fragile young woman in her mid-twenties sat at the metal desk in her tiny, non-descript room in the psychiatric ward of St. John’s Hospital. Peggy’s entire body trembled with anxiety and she could feel panic settling in. She had a pen in hand, but hesitated at the thought of writing her cousin Dana… She hated herself for needing Dana, but she was desperate and there was no one else.”
Thank you, Roberta, for sharing your story! Here is an excerpt from our newest submission. Click on the link to read and comment on Roberta’s story.
“For nearly forty years I buried the secret deep within. To anyone that knew me my life was nearly perfect; successful career in education, good marriage and three beautiful children. It appeared wonderful and for the most part it was wonderful. I loved my role as educator, wife and mother. I just didn’t love myself. There was something “wrong” with me but I didn’t know what it was.
My final thought on ending the silence sits close to my heart. As a little girl I never dared to tell anyone what my parents were doing to me. To this day victims live in silence out of fear and shame. If this is going to change, society must change. Sexual abuse is still a “dirty word.” For those who are old enough remember when we could not use the word ‘cancer’ or ‘AIDS?’ It took the brave souls who were willing to speak out about cancer and AIDS to educate society and open the door for victims to receive support without shame. Children take their cues from adults. If we as adults can talk openly, shamelessly, about sexual abuse it is much more likely that children will have the courage to tell that they have been abused. Ending the silence is the step we need to take to end the abuse. If only I was able to tell an adult when I was a little girl…well, I am telling you now. Please help by taking the risk to end the silence and Say It Out Loud!”
Click here to read the rest of the story.
I have lately been captivated by the feminist debate surrounding the sex-crimes allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Naomi Wolf has emerged as the most vocal supporter of Mr. Assange in the feminist community. This debate has raised interesting questions regarding the validity of the allegations, the political motivations behind the charges, and our role as supporters of sexual violence survivors in this discussion. I support Ms. Wolf’s opinion that there are political motivations behind the allegations against Mr. Assange and that the recent actions taken by international governments are dramatically atypical. However, I think Ms. Wolf’s latest editorial has gone too far.
In her editorial, “Julian Assange’s sex-crime accusers deserve to be named,” published on the Guardian online, Naomi Wolf argues that the two accusers of Mr. Assange, and subsequently all rape accusers, should be named in the media. She goes on to write that the anonymity that protects victims of sexual violence is outdated and actually hurts women. She argues that this anonymity allows rape myths to flourish and inhibits change. “Finally,” she writes, “there is a profound moral issue here. Though children’s identities should, of course, be shielded, women are not children. If one makes a serious criminal accusation, one must be treated as a moral adult.”
If Ms. Wolf were as well versed in the reality of rape as she claims, then she would understand that rape is a crime of power. Taking away a victim’s right to anonymity only puts the power in the hands of the press and the general public. Let’s not be naïve about what would happen to rape accusers if their names were printed in the newspaper, repeated on television, and opened up for commenting on blogs.
Rape is already one of the most underreported crimes in the world. In the United States, only about 40% of rape victims report this crime to the police. There are many reasons contributing to this, including the cultural stigma against rape that Ms. Wolf claims to be interested in eradicating. However, there are other very real reasons that victims are hesitant to report. The most important of these is a victim’s safety. Nearly two-thirds of rape victims know their accusers, and more than 50% of all reported rape and sexual assaults occurred within a mile of the victim’s home. Many convicted rapists have also been arrested or convicted for other violent crimes, including physical assault.
What would happen if we denied men and women this anonymity? How many people would report rape and sexual assault?
The reality is that of the 40% of rape victims that do report this crime to police, there is only a 16% chance that the accused will end up in prison. This means that in most cases, even when a victim does go through with a criminal prosecution, the accused will likely be acquitted. Does this mean that most people who report rape are lying? No. It just means we are still very much a part of a society that does not understand the true motivations behind rape and does not possess a judicial process adequate to punish rapists.
If we follow Ms. Wolf’s logic, victims who brave the potentially degrading process of reporting rape to an often unsympathetic and misinformed police force should bear the moral responsibility of being named in the media. But when the perpetrators are acquitted, then what? Victims then face a lifetime of potential humiliation from a public that still doesn’t understand the true nature of rape or the failed judicial system of prosecuting this crime.
Let’s not forget the crime of rape itself and the effect that it has on victims. After being raped, victims suffer from extreme shame, guilt, fear, self-blame, and depression. Many victims are terrified to reveal that they have been raped even to their friends and family members. As Ms. Wolf points out, our culture has traditionally blamed and stigmatized rape victims, leading them to stay silent. Adding forced public scrutiny to this burden would only create another obstacle to reporting.
Ms. Wolf frames her argument as a protection of feminism, characterizing the privacy that rape accusers are granted as “condescending” to women.
This is not an issue of feminism. Feminists (and I proudly call myself a feminist) are empathetic to the struggle of rape survivors because rape is perpetuated by a culture that objectifies and demeans women. Furthermore, many feminists are survivors of rape themselves. However, both men and women are victims of sexual violence, and the stigma that rape survivors face is a unique and deeply rooted issue. And the fact is that rape survivors themselves should not be used, against their will, as a tool to end the stigmas our culture perpetuates.
I agree with Ms. Wolf that when survivors allow themselves to be named, they help to end some of the myths about “who” is raped and what a rape survivor looks and acts like. Every time we stand up and speak, we increase awareness and communication about this issue. However, it is an individual decision to speak. One that should not be taken away from us. Every rape is different, every survivor is different. And we each have the right to share our story when the time is right with whomever we wish to share it with. This decision should not be made by the police or a judge, and certainly not by a journalist.
Ms. Wolf presents an argument that is logically interesting and academically worth considering. What it lacks is a connection to the reality of the crime of rape and a true concern for the well-being of rape survivors. It is clear that her primary motivation is to turn Mr. Assange into a hero. But her lofty rhetoric effectively silences the voices of rape survivors, and only serves to delegitimize the issue of rape culture.
Ms. Wolf frequently cites her numerous interviews with rape victims as justification for her arguments. My arguments do not deserve consideration simply because I am a survivor of rape. But it is because I am a rape survivor that I reject her recommendations. To use her own words: “Motivated by good intentions, the outcome harms women.” And men. I respect Ms. Wolf as a journalist and a feminist, but Ms. Wolf does not speak for me. I prefer the right to speak for myself.
-Emily Monroe, End the Silence Campaign
Check out the three new stories below. Happy New Year to all of our writers, supporters, and fans! We truly appreciate all you do to help end the silence surrounding sexual violence. Here’s to a year full of hope, healing, and change!
Disconnected - Anonymous
“They won’t know that the coldness comes back. That a part of me grows hard, quickly rebuilding those walls so they don’t come down. Don’t react. It’s my unspoken mantra. One I don’t even believe in, but can’t seem to break out of the trance. Don’t be upset. Don’t speak. This is what happens.
And it’s that cage, that final captor, that has allowed for the others. That has left me with the invisible mark of victim. Only some can see it, like an infared mark most never notice. Hidden in ambition, lost in personality, but those who can see through the covers all do, and they all find me. It doesn’t have to be this way. I refuse to live with it being this way.
New mantra: This is not what happens.” Read more.
“I look at my Hannah, something is wrong; I can see her fur turning dark like ash left from a fire. Her eyes are turning black as an empty night sky with no stars twinkling to light the way. The sun is battling a dark sky approaching from behind me. It is losing. It is getting colder now, I feel the rush of goose bumps all over my body, I can almost see my breath. I begin to quiver slightly. The sweet smells are turning rancid, spoiled, rotten. The grass is molding, the flowers are wilting, the brownies are burning, the dried tobacco is now a burning cigarette that closes my throat with every inhalation. I can no longer laugh.” Read more.
“I was in such excruciating pain that I could hardly breathe. I was sick and tired of the relationship but did not dare to walk away from my abuser. In August, 2007 things changed in my life.” Read more.
In these moving poems, Sarah Ann Henderson explores her journey as a survivor of sexual abuse. In her poem, “The Afterword,” she writes:
“…With that hell that I carry inside
With the tortures that I’ve ambled through
I suppose on some level I’m healing
At least I pray that’s true
And I will just have to keep writing
This life story that’s long overdue.”
Read more of her poetry by clicking on the links below:
And as always, feel free to share your comments and support the brave survivors who share their stories.
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