Silence begats violence against women and children!
“When I was 8 years old my uncle started to molest me. He would come in my room late at night while I pretended to be asleep. He would lock the door and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get out. He would get into my bed with me and he start fondling me, kissing me and undressing me. Once I started to yell for my mother, he just covered my mouth with his hand and took off his underpants and raped me. I was bleeding and I just lay in my blood crying. He told me if I told my mother she would think I was a slut. I didn’t know any better so I didn’t say anything. – Felisha”
I can easily tell you who sexual assault affects but we all know someone who has been the victim of sexual violence whether we know it or not. Sexual violence occurs in all cultures, all countries, all religions, and racial communities. Every time you meet with at least five women, at least one of those women will have been the victim of sexual assault.
The consequences of sexual violence touch every aspect of life -physical, psychological, emotional, social, sexual, financial, and professional. Trust, confidence and self-worth are often shattered. “A Jamaican woman who was sexually assaulted termed it “the lifetime imprisonment of rape”.
The single greatest risk factor for becoming a victim of sexual assault is being a woman. But that doesn’t mean men shouldn’t be aware of sexual assault. A culture that doesn’t value a woman’s voice will have a problem, respecting a woman’s right to choose when, where, how and with whom she engages in sexual activity. This type of culture only perpetrates violence against women. Violence against women in Jamaica persists because the country is failing to tackle discrimination against women, allowing social and cultural attitudes that encourage discrimination and violence. Sexual violence is less likely to be reported than other crimes, but, when it is reported, it is less likely to result in charges, prosecution and less likely to lead to conviction.
Families and communities don’t talk about what is happening because they are ashamed or afraid. But this silence is what allows the violence to continue. Silence only helps the abuser to continue hurting more people. There are countless women who have been violated and abused that never tell anyone and never get the chance to heal. I personally know atleast 10 women that have been sexual assaulted as children that have not dealt with it. Suppressing emotions does not make them go away instead they fester within us and manifest into anger, seclusion, promiscuity, suicide and many other negative expressions. There has to be a positive outlet that women and children can express themselves, talk and begin to heal.
I am deeply inspired by A Long Walk Home, a non-profit organization that uses art therapy and the visual and performing arts to end violence against girls and women. They inspire social change through community empowerment and public action. They provide programs for adolescent girls to learn how to make healthy sexual and reproductive choices and become youth leaders to end violence against girls and women. As well as an art-based summer program for adolescent boys to prevent violence against girls and women .
The Sex Crimes Against Black Girls Project began initially as a mixed media exhibition exploring different levels of sexual exploitation and oppression suffered by young Black girls across the African Diaspora. The issues explored range from incest to female circumcision. The purpose of this ehxibt is to create exploratory dialogue in efforts to address and solve the inherent silence that these crimes face. The diverse show ranges from oil on canvas, to some mixed media, from collages and poems, to digital prints. “It’s taboo to talk about sexual identity, because of fear. We don’t want to talk about it because we think it will bring it to life, when in fact, it’s already there. But talking about it helps people understand that they are not alone,” says artist Alexandria Smith.
“ZIP” by Frances Bradley
Ways to end sexual assault:
- If you see someone in danger of being assaulted step in and help.
- When you go out with a group of friends. Arrive together, check in with each other frequently and leave together.
- If someone you know has been assaulted, listen, be patient, help to empower your friend/family member, encourage them to report incident.
- Support public awareness and education programs challenging the acceptability of violence against women.
- Request programs and services for women who have been victims of sexual violence: physical and mental care, shelters for when the perpertrator is a family member.
- End your silence against sexual assault.
- Today’s articles on sexual assault 4/9/2011 (sleepingbeautyslavery.wordpress.com)