Voices of Survival 2018

Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence stands in solidarity with survivors. We want to elevate the voices of survivors during Sexual Assault Awareness Month as part of this year’s theme: “Embrace Your Voice.” We collected artwork and poems from survivors who wanted to share their stories. These are some of the submissions we received.

"At Your Hands"

"With Love"

This is the opening reflection on the various forms of sexual assault I’ve endured in my lifetime.

"Too Many Stories"

I’ve heard too many stories of sexual violence from too many women. These conversations have happened in the dead of night, to make sure that no one else can hear them. They’ve been offhanded comments to show solidarity with a scene in a television show: “Yeah, that’s happened to me too.” They’ve burst forward in moments that are too similar to bad memories.

And I’ve never had to ask. Not once. If you talk to a woman long enough, the stories come, because the experience of sexual assault and harassment is so common that it becomes interwoven with the other threads of women’s lives. A story about happy childhood events takes a turn into a bathroom where no adults are around. Talking about old friend groups is a setup to how one of them took advantage of her while she was drunk. Sharing sexual likes and dislikes inevitably becomes a discussion about why she doesn’t like certain things, because an ex did them to her without asking. I’ve become a repository of survival stories for the simple fact that I know women.

These stories have come from women of color, so there are no rallies or #MeToo movements. These women are ignored by the mainstream and silenced by men of color who demand absolute loyalty to the race and the culture. Blackness trumps all, so white women don’t show up for them and black men are their abusers.

We may claim, “Not all men!” but all men are men. We are all part of a system which trashes women for being prudes and trashes them for being sluts. We have all catcalled a woman, or stolen a woman’s intimate pictures, or described getting sex as an act of “applying pressure,” or grabbed a woman without her permission, or followed her on the street, or struck a woman for not acceding to our sexual advances, or killed a woman for shattering our fragile sense of manhood. We have all done these things because we have all heard about them or seen them, and done nothing.

I expect that I will hear even more stories as I meet more women. There will be girls who were abused by the men tasked with protecting them. Women will have had their trust violated by men who were secretly waiting for their moment to attack. Men’s silence is more than just complicity, it’s aiding and abetting. We are accomplices to the hurt and suffering of women in our communities. Yes, we must listen, but after we’ve done that, then it’s time to take action.

No more stories.