Over the past several months, sexual assault has been forced into the news media by celebrities who have decided to take a stand to make a change. When someone finds the courage to step out of darkness and tell their story, it not only impacts them, but it can also have a ripple effect by giving others the courage to step forward and helping them come to the realization that they’re not alone.
At the 2016 Oscars, Lady Gaga put on an emotional, take-charge, yet gut-wrenching performance of her song “Til It Happens To You.” This song was featured in The Hunting Ground documentary and puts into words the feelings a lot of survivors of sexual assault experience. Toward the end of the performance, survivors of sexual assault stepped out on stage with messages written on their arms consisting of “Not Your Fault,” “Unbreakable” and “Survivor.” At the end of the performance, they joined hands and raised them as if to say, “we can come forward and do this together.” It was really moving. If you missed it, here’s a link to the video.
Today, I read a blog post by Jade Liz Roper, a former Bachelor contestant and reality-TV star, who for the first time publicly, talks about being raped by someone she thought was a friend 12 years ago. It’s raw, but it’s real. I applaud Jade for having the courage to talk about what she went through and continues to go through as a result.
At the Oscars, even Vice President Joe Biden spoke out in support of Survivors. He said: “We must and we can change the culture so no abused woman or man ever feel they have to ask themselves, “What did I do?” They did nothing wrong.”
I cannot agree more. Why should a person feel that they should have to keep what happened to them inside? Why does our culture constantly question whether a rape or abuse survivor is telling the truth? Why does our culture victim-blame?
Although coming forward can be scary, speaking out can help a person transform from “Victim” to “Survivor” – this is one of the reasons I am so passionate about representing Survivors of Crime. Coming forward can allow a person to get the treatment they need and begin to heal. It can give someone else the last push they need to come forward and speak out. It needs to be talked about and brought out into the open.
Are we a culture that needs changing? Absolutely. Can we get there? I think we can. The more it’s talked about and made public, the more public opinion will change.
One thing is for sure—sexual assault is no longer a topic to be brushed under the rug. Survivors are standing together and they’re bringing it to light. No longer are the days where the abusers can move on with their lives assuming their crime will stay silent. No longer are the days where institutions involved in covering up and hushing survivors get away with it. Our country is taking a stand and making a change, and it’s what survivors of abuse have deserved all along.