Breaking My Silence & Taking Back the Night
I was first sexually assaulted at 9 years old. I hadn’t ever shared my experience out loud–never mind in print–until just recently. That was just the first of many experiences with sexual assault and harassment that shaped the person that I am today.
Personally, when I first saw the “Me Too” posts being made on social media I was saddened to see how many people have been affected and put in this position. I wondered how so many people could have been affected by sexual harassment and assault. But I also wondered how many women (cis, femmes, trans or non-binary people) have made it through life without (at the very least) being cat-called. It made me realize that we are facing a silent epidemic of sexual violence, and we have been for a long time.
I believe the first step in ending sexual violence is to break the silence that surrounds it. Unfortunately, we’re often kept from sharing our stories by victim-blaming or by fears we won’t be believed. It’s important to recognize that it’s not the victim’s fault for what happened to them and not believing survivors prevents others from coming forward.
How can we make progress on a topic that is seldom discussed? Members of my family became rape victims at a young age and even in the process of writing this I had to obtain permission to share my family’s story. For many generations, women were taught to turn a blind eye, pretend it didn’t happen and definitely not to talk about it. I believe that the only chance we have at healing from this is to start breaking the silence.
A close friend came to me in writing this and gave me permission to anonymously share their personal experience with sexual assault beginning at the age of two. Of course the lump in my throat still remains as I write this because the details are intense, but perhaps this intensity is what’s needed to break the silence. We simply can’t be silent anymore.
I hope that whether #metoo resonates with you, or even if you don’t know what to feel about it, that it creates the possibility of a conversation that we’re often too reluctant to have. We are who we are because of our experiences and we show solidarity and build strength by sharing our stories and listening to others share theirs.
I would also encourage everyone to write your MLA’s, MP’s and Prime Minister and demand the government to act to end sexual violence. However, it’s also clear we need more from society than stricter laws–we need more and better education. We must talk to young boys and men to normalize consent and respect. We can all do our part by standing up and speaking out when we see or hear harassment and violence, whether it’s online, in the streets or in our families.
If you’d like to get involved and stand up against sexual violence, please join us at Crescent Park (Cordova St. Entrance) on October 27 at 7pm for Moose Jaw Pride’s second annual Take Back the Night–a march against gender-based violence. We will be marching against all forms of gender-based violence, sexual violence, domestic violence and violence against Murdered and Missing Indigenous Men and Women. Everyone is welcome to attend this free, all-ages event. A short gathering with snacks provided by the Moose Jaw Transition House will follow at St. Andrew’s United Church.
Alyssa Buck is a volunteer with Moose Jaw Pride and lead organizer for Moose Jaw’s 2nd Annual Take Back the Night Rally.