The weight of the shame I felt after I was sexually assaulted was enormous. From the minute I opened my eyes in the morning to the second I fell asleep at night, I was aware of the weight. It was a physical burden that I carried around with me at all times.
If you want to read more about my story, you can find that it here.
Despite the fact that I hadn’t told a single person about my assault, I felt like everyone could tell that I was a victim. It felt like I was wearing the scarlet letter. I convinced myself that everyone was judging me. I began to withdraw into myself due to the embarrassment I felt. Slowly, I stopped participating in things that I loved and found excuses to avoid the people I had once spent all my time with. The shame effected every aspect of my life.
In reality of course, no one knew about my assault. I didn’t report it or share the details with anyone until years later. There was no scarlet letter or victim tattoo on my forehead. But that didn’t change the way I felt for so long.
An Unfair Weight
It isn’t fair that I carried this burden around with me for so long. It isn’t fair that so many other women are holding a similar weight. Shame shouldn’t be a factor in deciding whether we want justice for ourselves. It shouldn’t effect our lives after a sexual assault. This isn’t something we chose or a decision we made. We didn’t choose to be victims. Someone else chose to hurt us. Someone else chose to break the law. It was someone else’s choices that lead to this event. So why should we be stuck carrying around the shame?
The answer is equally unfair. Society forces that shame on us. Society tells us we should be ashamed for becoming victims. We live in a society that would rather re-victimize the survivor instead of point fingers at the accused. We feel ashamed because society tells us that we’re at fault.
Society even asks questions that imply that we hold some part in the blame in our assault.
- What were you wearing?
- How much had you had to drink?
- Did you flirt with him or lead him on?
- Were you asking for it?
- Did you send mixed signals?
It’s these kinds of questions the reinforce the shame that survivors carry around with them. Essentially, we’re taught to feel ashamed of the fact that someone else wronged us. It’s not something we talk about because we feel at fault. We don’t want to open ourselves up to that judgement. We hide the fact that we’re survivors as if it’s a guilty secret.
But I refuse to continue to feel ashamed over something I didn’t ask for. I refuse to carry around the shame that should belong to someone else. I’m not afraid to talk about what happened to me. It happened to me, but it doesn’t define me.
I am not a lesser person because someone sexually assaulted me.
If you’re looking for support after a sexual assault, reach out to me.