I had the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles, California for work recently. I attended the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault conference and it was a wonderful experience. There was a time difference of 3 hours from the east coast, so I decided to work out in the morning before I actually attended the conference since I was still on east coast time. The first morning I went to work out I realized that the gym was on the 26th floor of my hotel. So because I had such a great view I proceeded to look for the Los Angeles skyline. There were windows that were all around but I couldn’t find the skyline and didn’t know why. Then it hit me I realized I was actually in the skyline my hotel was the Sheraton Downton Los Angeles Hotel. Even though the people around me couldn’t hear my thoughts I was still really embarrassed, because I was looking for something that I was never going to find because I forgot where I was. This reminds me of how I sometimes search for validation from the outside world and constantly looking for answers whenever the answer is right there within me. Sometimes I seem to forget whose I am. I am a child of God I don’t have to search the world for my answers.
In preparation of my book signing I told some of my friends that I wanted to serve chicken and waffles and they gave me a look. My first thought of chicken and waffles is Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles restaurant that I would frequent in Atlanta, GA. However, my friends, being from Maryland, only think of the opposite of something that would be considered upscale. There was a disconnection in our way of looking at the same situation. I missed the connection that they were making and they doubted my idea of what a nice event would encompass. Eventually, we all figured out where we were coming from and the situation was resolved and now we joke about it! However, that situation makes me think that there can be so many disconnections within our communications with others. We could say a phrase or mention a word and it strike a nerve within someone else and we might be clueless. It is so important that we keep our lines of communication open. I have been guilty of not always sharing my feelings and that leading to bitterness, but if I had only said something the issue would have immediately been resolved. I think that is why I feel that it is so important for people to use their voice. I know what it feels like to feel like my voice is gone or insignificant. I refuse to be in that place ever again in my life.
I feel that during my life I have experienced some pain that is indescribable. It is actually something that I do not want to talk about particularly because this pain that I feel is hidden. The thought of the pain is enough to make tears well up in my eyes. The lack of trust in my life has led me to feel that I did not want to share this pain. There have been times that I did share and I was almost dismissed or the person would change the conversation and they would simply take about themselves. This pain was something that basically festered on my insides. It was something that is hard to deal with on a daily basis. No matter what has happened in my past, I am expected to have the ability to function in everyday life. I am expected to flourish even though I have had experiences that are unspeakable. Those feelings of pain have taken me to some dark places. I never told anyone about this hidden, dark place when I would frequently go to this place. God had to step in order for me to completely rid myself of this dark place. The dark place was alcoholism, depression, feelings of suicide, and a few other places that I did not want anyone else to know. I wish that I would have never been raped and that I would have never been in those dark places and had to go through the hidden pain. However, I thank God that I this hidden pain was exposed and that I no longer have to carry the pain with me through the rest of my life. I thank God for being with me on this journey to a rape victim survivor.
We are all familiar with the story of the boy who cried wolf. So I want to talk about the elephant in the room, there are people who think when a person says that they are raped, they are lying because honestly there are some people that do lie about rape. I know that some people after having sexual intercourse feel guilty maybe because of religious beliefs or maybe the sexual encounter was an act of infidelity. Rape is not something you say if you feel guilty after sex, rape is when someone forces you to have sex without consent. Rape is when someone throws you on the ground, rips off your clothes and penetrates and you have either said no or you have shown non-verbal cues such as not participating or squirming trying to get away. Rape is not something to use as a scapegoat to receive pity. When people use rape as a medium for their own benefit, it takes away from those that are truly victims and need help. It makes them go inwardly and not want to say anything and suffer for years and sometimes decades alone, afraid to speak up and tell their story because of the flack that they will get for saying they were raped. The percentage of false reporting is actually exponentially low, but it happens and we no longer need those individuals using rape as their excuse. Allow the true victims to have a voice and be honest about what truly happens to you. This is not written in hate or anger, I am only trying to ensure that those that lie about rape face the demons that are truly haunting them and bringing truth towards the topic of rape. I pray that those that are victims of rape gather enough courage to get help so that they one day can become a survivor and not have to be concerned with the stigma of thinking that no one will believe them. I’ve felt that way and it is a way to silence a victim and keep things buried only to fester and brew negativity within. The elephant in the room had to be aired out and the smoke cleared. There are truly victims that are out there that need our help to transform from a victim to survivor.
A week ago I was asked to facilitate a class on sexual assault for work. I am glad that I had an opportunity to talk about sexual assault to others and it is a part of my healing process. During the introduction we were asked to talk about how sexual assault has an effect on our lives. I shared with the group that sexual assault is a subject that is something that is near to my heart. I told the group that I was a survivor of sexual assault and know first hand the pain that sexual assault can lead to. I went on to explain that I tend to be open about my past and because of that many other survivors of sexual assault will tell me what has happened to them. I feel that the numbers that are posted about sexual assault are inaccurate because many people do not report what has happened to them. I feel that I can help with the healing of those that have been sexual assaulted because I am willing to air out all of my business. I’ve never been a private person, and I feel that me being transparent does help with my ability to reach those that would normally stay silent on the things that have happened. Silence is sometimes important, but at times these secrets can eat away at us and healing can never take place. My prayer is that God will use me as I share my testimony with transparency of the healing the pain from my sexual assault attacks.
Last week I finally finished the manuscript to the book that I’ve been working on for over 10 years.I released a sigh of relief and then held my breath because I realized the closer I am to being done, the closer I am to revealing some of my darkest times and secrets in my life to not only my loved ones, but to the world. I will definitely have to say I have to prepare myself for the times coming up regarding the book about sexual assault. The only thing that makes me even consider pressing forward is my prayer that my story will bless someone else that is hurting.
The attention that people put on the month of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month is good, but we all need to keep in mind that this is an ongoing battle for those who have experienced sexual assault. I watched a marathon on Law and Order SVU that completely dedicated a Sunday night with episodes that specifically had cases that had sexual assault. With Sexual Assault Awareness Month coming to an end I think about the journey that victims/survivors have to go through never ends. It is good for there to be a month that people are educated on sexual assaults and its affect on society. My prayer is that all victims are able to reach the status of becoming a survivor and can receive their healing and restoration. The way that I was able to reach this status was to trust in God and focus on Him.
So it’s finally April and it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is a time that attention is drawn to sexual assault and people are educated and people also have a way to possibly get help if they are a victim of sexual assault. Sexual Assault is a silent epidemic. It has touched so many people’s lives and so many people keep it a secret. I hope that one day all sexual assault victims will have a voice.