by Amanda Mendoza
Sexual violence impacts every aspect of an individual’s life, regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. Whether the perpetrator was a friend, family member, stranger, intimate partner, co-worker, or acquaintance, sexual assault is a traumatic experience. Because trauma affects everyone differently, there is no right or wrong way to react to it.
As an intern for YWCA New Britain’s Sexual Assault Crisis Service, I was recently at a Take Back the Night event on a college campus. Take Back the Night events- often marches, rallies, or vigils- occur around the world to bring awareness to and speak out against sexual and domestic violence.
Being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, this was my second time attending a Take Back the Night event. Survivors of sexual violence were welcomed to stand on stage and share their story. Even though I had spoken once before, the thought of my words echoing across the room of over 100 people still made me incredibly nervous. But, I knew I wasn’t the only one.
Many brave people took that stage. I heard stories about sexual assault from people of all ages, about assaults that happened at all different times of the day, and in many different places. For some, this was the fifth time they had shared their story publicly while for others it was the first. Some held their composure alone while others needed a friend by their side for support.
Again, because trauma affects everyone differently, there is no right or wrong way to react to it. Some survivors may immediately tell someone their story while others may keep it to themselves for months, or even years. Some survivors may decide to report to the police while others may decide against it. Some survivors may want to participate in or volunteer with organizations fighting against sexual violence while others may not. No matter what kind of story, how you share your story, or even if you share your story at all, you are a survivor.
There are no requirements to fulfill when you are a survivor. The only person you need to be true to is yourself. You know the choices that are right for you.
Stay strong and please take care.
If you would like to talk to someone, call the 24-hour, free and confidential hotline.