If someone robs your house and steals everything you own, you feel unsafe, violated and on high alert for future thefts.
If someone breaks into your house everyday and steals just one CD, you feel unsafe, violated and on high alert for future thefts.
In either case, someone is inside your house without your consent and taking something belonging to you without asking.
Sexual violence is like having your house broken into.
When I was raped, I felt unsafe, violated and on high alert for future violence.
When I was touched sexually without my consent I felt unsafe, violated and on high alert for future violence.
When I was looked at sexually without my consent I felt unsafe, violated and on high alert for future violence.
Whether the perpetrator was forcing sex without my consent or just touching me when I was asleep, the impact was the same. Something was being taken from me without my consent. I wasn’t freely participating so it was assault, not sex.
Sexual violence impacts survivors, it doesn’t have to be rape to impact you.
I want to break down the myth that certain types of sexual violence are “more serious” than others. All sexual violence is happening without consent, and when something happens to your body without consent it can have a major impact.
I’ve experienced the spectrum of violence, from voyeurism, to touching without consent, to forced intercourse. It’s just not true that the rape was always the worst. What was the worst was not knowing if my house was going to be broken into that night or not. Not how much was stolen during the break in.
During my marriage the sexual assault took place when I was drugged and asleep. There was no ability to provide consent. In fact, I often said no while I was awake. Sometimes I said no again when I woke up, sometimes I didn’t.
If you don’t say no, it does not mean you consented. There are many reasons why someone might not say no. They might be drugged or intoxicated, they might be too afraid, they might disassociate or freeze as a response to the trauma or they might have learned through repeated experience that saying no is not effective, or provokes further violence.
I was impacted by all the violence I experienced. And the impact built and multiplied together. It wasn’t any one incident that caused me to have PTSD, or made me feel unsafe, it was a collection of experiences that took place over a number of years. Except for in one case, I knew all the perpetrators. Except for one of those, I had contact with all of them after the abuse. They were friends, dates, boyfriends and my husband. The fact that I had contact with them does not mean I consented. In some cases it takes time to end a relationship with an abuser. There can be further risks for women in the period when they are leaving, the violence can escalate and the abuser can become more unpredictable. The abuser senses they are losing control and they tighten and increase their efforts to control the survivor.
I was abused multiple times and I never screamed. I never really physically fought back except in one instance. This does not mean I consented. There were reasons why I didn’t fight back. I was ashamed, I was scared, I froze…my kids were in the room next door, I was afraid of further violence.
All the assaults that happened to me except one, happened in places I knew, my home, their home, school etc. If you go with someone to a location it does not mean you are consenting to sex. Most violence happens in places and with people known to the survivor, it is a myth that the most dangerous place is walking down a dark street at night.
No matter how your house was broken into and what was stolen, even if nothing was stolen, your experience is valid. No matter where on the spectrum your assault falls, your experience is valid. Your coping reactions and what you did to survive are all valid too.
I believe you. I hope you believe yourself. I hope that the thefts stop or have stopped. You deserve to be safe. Without consent, it is assault.