I’m a little late on this train, but I’m going to force it to keep rolling for just a few hundred more words.
As I’m sure you may have heard, George F. Will of the Washington Post adamantly believes that victimhood is a “coveted status that confers privileges.” Not only is this the most outlandish thing I have ever read in my entire life, but it strikes a nerve in me. It makes me fume. There is no crime that confers privileges for the victim. With that said, sexual assault is likely the most devastating thing a person can personally experience. In many ways I (personally) feel it can be worse than murder. There are survivors, and they have to live with it in their own personal hell for the rest of their lives. Sexual assault deprives people of their livelihood. It brings about a “damaged goods” stigma that makes personal relationships excruciatingly laborious. The worst part? The estimates on how many women are sexually assaulted vary, but it is widely acknowledged that it is under reported, and only 3% of rapists ever spend a day in jail.
I’m sorry, Mr. Will, what privilege do these young men and women have of remaining sleepless at night, terrified that either their attacker or an enraged citizen will harm them? What privilege do they have when they can’t go into large, public spaces because of the crippling fear of looking their attacker in the eye? What privilege do they have when their own parents don’t believe them? What privilege do they have when they get email and facebook message, prying into their trauma just so they can establish an opinion on whether or not the assault was “legit.”
What a disgusting world you live in, Mr. Will. You live in a misogynistic, spiteful, truly privileged world in which you hold the power. And if that doesn’t sound like hell, I don’t know what does.
My beloved survivors, do not believe this old, white man who is full of crap. Find comfort in that you are not alone. Chances are that among your social circle, there is at least one other young lady who has similar experiences. Take comfort in that conversations are happening. People are standing up where we once remained silent. Action is on the brink of happening, and I wholeheartedly believe that.
You are not damaged because someone committed an unspeakable act of violence towards you. They’re damaged because they do not realize their thirst for power. You are not damaged because of your experiences. Changed? Yes. Certainly we are all changed when we encounter trauma in our lives. Damaged? Never. No one has the right to strip you of your livelihood.
Survival of sexual assault is difficult. It will be a daily battle. There will be tears. There will be fits of rage, often targeted at those you love the most. There will be doubters. There will be assholes. There will be George Will’s. Every single day will feel like an uphill battle. But if there is one thing I know to be true in this life, it is that things get better. It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen in a month, or maybe even a year. But one day at a time, you will make it.