Content warning: sexual assault

April. To some, it is the month which the rain falls and the sun comes out and spring is in full bloom, but to others, it is a persistent reminder of the obstacles and events we have had to overcome. April is sexual assault awareness month. For many, this is an emotional rollercoaster of rage, sadness, hopelessness, fear, happiness, strength, and pride. For me, it is a time of numbness and regret, a time of reflection and self-assurance. For me, April isn’t just sexual assault awareness month, it is the anniversary of my own assault. It is something I find myself getting pulled in by; like tentacles appearing from a black hole that wrap firmly around my legs and drag me into. This year, being the 6th “anniversary”, even if that word sounds all too pleasant, I find myself greeting those tentacles like an old friend. I think this year, instead of being unwillingly dragged into that pit, I will gladly walk into it and face the feelings as they crash over me rather than try to battle those giant waves of emotion. 

Though I don’t know if time has kept this message written on the walls of Washbourne hall, I remember seeing a large chalk sign running up the stairs in order to bring awareness about Denim Day, which commemorates and challenges the misconceptions that we have about sexual assault and how it impacts survivors. Denim day challenges the idea that forced actions or someone’s clothing are any indications of consent. Other acknowledgments within April surrounding sexual assault include:

Day of Action, which has come and passed, being the first Tuesday of April and is a day that encourages everyone to take action in fighting sexual assault. 

The Clothesline Project, which was started in 1990, is a visual display of violence statistics; many of the first exhibits were made from the clothing worn by survivors during their assaults, further fighting against the idea that a victim’s clothing is often sexually suggestive.

Take Back the Night, which started in the 1970s, is a movement that fights sexual assault and violence against women. It is known as the earliest worldwide effort to combat sexual violence. 

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, started in 2001, is an annual international march against Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence. It is most notable in that its first organizers were men who believed that sexual violence would not end until the patriarchy is dismantled; taking it into their own hands (or feet rather), they donned high heels and strutted the globe to bring attention to their cause. 

Though these organizations and events are helpful in bringing awareness, as well as alleviating some of the pain caused by sexual assault, this is often not enough. Sexual violence is still heavily stigmatized, and victim-blaming is a large part of rape culture. Less than 50% of all sexual assaults are reported, and out of those, according to Rainn.org, only 1 out of every 1,000 rapists is jailed. This is not inclusive of other types of sexual assault, or assault that happens within prison populations, which is a further indication of how imperative it is to start and actively talk about sexual assault within our society. Many of us do not fully understand that what we went through is sexual assault until we hear stories or reflect on it later in life. If I had been educated or open with those around me about my assault, I would have understood that it was not something that I deserved. Assault is something that nobody deserves, no matter how they look, what they wear, who they are, what they’re doing, where they are, what time of day or year it is, or who they are around. Nobody who is assaulted is at fault for their assault. It is always the fault of the person who chooses to carry out the assault.

Even though Pacific is a small campus and we are relatively sex-positive, and we have workshops like Sex and Pizza, we are still a campus full of survivors, some like myself who are open about it, some who may still hide it from their loved ones. To all of you, I want you to know that I love you, and I am here for you anytime you need me. If you did not report your assault, your feelings about your experience are still just as valid as someone who did. You are not lesser for being quiet, and it is not your job to disclose information to anyone about your experience. I often hear people blame victims for staying quiet because “they’re letting a predator roam free, what if it happens to someone else.” That is not the job of the survivor. They are a victim of that predator, and our society has made it so reporting sexual violence often brings scrutiny to the survivor, and once again, it is always the fault of the person choosing to assault others, never the victims. 

Nobody on this campus is immune from sexual violence. Sexual violence does not know gender, political division, size, shape, age, race, sexuality, or economic status. Sexual violence comes in many forms and it’s not just a sketchy dude in a white van. Please stay safe, care for yourselves, and mercilessly defend those you love and those you don’t know. Without the help of everyone, our society will continue to be saturated with rape culture and its monstrous effects. The more you fight now, the less we and our children will have to fight later. 

If you would like to reach out to me about your assault, please message me through the confidential Sex and Love email at Birdsandboxers@gmail.com

If you want to reach out to a professional about counseling or legal consultations, please refer to the list below. More information can be found here: National Hotlines 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1 (800) 799 – 7233

National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 1 (866) 331 – 9474 Text: 22522

Pathways to Safety International Hotline: Assists Americans experiencing interpersonal and gender-based violence abroad

1 (833) 723 – 3833 Email: crisis@pathwaystosafety.org 

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline:

Hotline: 1 (888) 843 – 4564

Youth Talkline: 1 (800) 246 – 7743

Senior Helpline: 1 (888) 234 – 7243

Email: help@LGBThotline.org 

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) – National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1 (800) 656-4673

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 Text: 233733

Women’s Law: The WomensLaw online helpline provides basic legal information, referrals, and emotional support for victims of abuse.Email hotline: https://hotline.womenslaw.org/ – Haley Berger

Photo by Sophie Dale from Pexels

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Haley Berger is a Pacific Sophomore and public health major. She enjoys painting, listening to 1970’s R&B, and spending time with her beloved cat, Moose.

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