Only a Survivor

In April of 2018 I published an essay about a sexual assault I experienced in college and why I stayed silent about it for 40 years.  This was long before the topic of sexual assault became so politically charged.  I shared my story because I wanted to let other silent survivors know they are not alone, and to point out several factors inherent in our society that make it difficult for women to come forward.  In the months since, I was overwhelmed by the love and support shown by both friends and strangers. The response was universally positive.  Until yesterday. 

Yesterday a new comment about my essay was posted.  The author disagreed with me, but she was not disagreeable; she was civil and respectful.  So, I spent hours yesterday crafting something I hoped would be equally thoughtful, civil and respectful.  Understanding grows when people are able to be both candid and considerate.  (You can read both the comment and my response by scrolling past the essay.)

The current events of recent weeks have been difficult for us survivors.  It is easy to tell when the people sharing their opinions have never been raped or assaulted,  because no one who has had such experiences would ever say or assume such things.

To those of you who have been lucky enough to escape rape or sexual assault, I offer the following poem in the hopes it will promote greater understanding.

Only a Survivor

Only a survivor
Knows how it feels to tell the truth
And be victimized again because of it.

Only a survivor
Weighs the cost of reporting against the cost of silence
Knowing there will be harsh judgment regardless of her choice.

Only a survivor
Feels the depth of dark, despondency when another survivor’s credibility
Is crudely mocked by America’s highest leader

Only a survivor
Knows justice is often fleeting
Unlike traumatic memories that never fully fade.

2 thoughts on “Only a Survivor

  1. Cathy,
    Right on sister! I’ve always thought that those who aren’t in the arena have no right to speak. Unfortunately, during these times, people who have no right to speak, speak volumes about what they would do “if”….. so much hurt for survivors.

    Like

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