I recently wrote an article about something that happened to me 16 years ago. I was raped. Sexually assaulted. Molested. There are so many words to describe what happened to me that night. I had been drinking, and drunkenly went to the hotel room of a hockey referee, where he prevented me from leaving and forced himself on me, ignoring my attempts to stop him. It has been republished here on The Huffington Post and in Australia on Mamamia. You can read the post here.
Soon after the article was live, my inbox started filling up with names of women I didn't know, thanking me for my bravery, my courage in speaking out about what had happened to me.
While I didn't expect that reaction, I sadly wasn't surprised. I know, and knew, that what happened to me wasn't unique. What did take me by surprise was the vast number of people it had happened to.
Most of the women sounded like me. "It's awkward to call it rape." "He didn't use a weapon." "I was drinking; it was my fault." "I could have done something to stop it."
An interesting thing happened after this occurrence: I stopped trusting myself. I doubted most of my decisions after it, actually. I hid the truth from myself, and a self-loathing pattern erupted. Why? Because I blamed myself for what happened. Not him. Not the man who forced himself inside me, and had no respect for my existence. How many other women out there are like me, doing the same thing, right now? Far too many, and here's an example. This is an excerpt of an email from "A." -- I promised her that I'd keep her anonymous, as she's not ready to go public -- and how her life has changed:
I was going to the bathroom at a party, and he came up to me to chat while I waited for the person in there to finish. I was drunk and having fun, and he was making me laugh. He said he wanted to show me a painting in the master bedroom (I was an art history major), and that I could use the bathroom there. I followed him, and he raped me. I never told my friends... until last year when I tried to overdose. He's the reason I dropped out of school, because I would get panic attacks that I was doing everything wrong.
Once I opened up about my experience and got those emails, I started to wonder, what's causing so many of us to live in silence and to swallow our pain?
When we turn on the news, drama television or watch movies, we are flooded with images of one type of assault: the brutal/violent act of rape. As important as it is to educate the public on the very real danger of these types of attacks, we are doing ourselves a huge injustice by not discussing a very real threat under the rape umbrella. Given all the victim blaming that is done, so many of us bow our heads in shame and hide the truth from our community, people who could be aiding us in healing from a violation. If we change the way we talk about rape -- all types of rape -- we can take one step closer to empowering women to stop it from happening to them. It's time to #changethedialogue.
If we #changethedialogue about what's happening, we can offer a safe, secure and trusting society for women that are victims of this type of violation.
I'm asking you to join me in my crusade to change the way we talk about rape. #changethedialogue with me, and hopefully pave the way for future conversations to be open, healthy and healing.
Please post/tweet/IG your support of #changethedialogue with your story, your endorsement or the name of a friend that you stand behind (initials are ok.)
1. J, I stand by you, and will help #changethedialogue
2. I was raped, and I want to #changethedialogue
3. Join me and try to #changethedialogue
4. I changed my profile picture to #changethedialogue
Or, you can comment on my page with your support, here.
You can print out the picture here and take a photo with it, like I've done. There's also a Facebook group and an event page that you can join and invite your friends.
Please share this with as many people as you can, so we can spread the word, far and wide, to all the tiny corners of the earth where a woman might be touched by our efforts to help her come out of the shadows, and back into the light.