Friday, December 6, 2013

The Strength of a Survivor

*Just a quick warning that this post discusses assault

This post is a personal one. One that's very close to my heart. 

A phonecall at midnight is rarely a good thing. And the ambulance and police car that followed, further proved it. That night I learned that those bad things I'd seen on the news, that I'd shaken my head in dismay about but quickly forgot because they weren't happening to me, were no longer someone else's reality. I was living it. It made me never, ever take my safety for granted, to live fully, wholly and to take action and help people when I could. Most importantly the thing that's ingrained in my mind forever is sometimes, a defining moment is the moment you decide you won't let something horrible define you.

The Wall covers a few different issues but one of the most confronting is violence towards women. And if you've read the book you can probably tell that it comes from a personal place. I'm not going to go into details, needless to say, someone I love very much was assaulted years ago. But when I dig up the memories, I don't have to search very hard. They're still right up the front of my mind. I can still feel it like I'm going through it all over again. Writing about it helped. Talking about it helped.

In the media there's a lot of cover on how to prevent assault, what women can do make sure it doesn't happen to them and graphic details about certain attacks. I do believe that we need to look at prevention but The responsibility cannot be on the woman to not dress a certain way, not go to certain places, not drink too much. Where's the education programs to teach young males to respect women, to understand what 'no' really means and the consequences of ignoring that demand? The consequences must be severe.

What I also want and need to see is a focus on the women who've already been there. What are we doing for them? I'm loathe to call them victims. Maybe suvivors would be a better word because they are super strong, they got through it the best way they could and in my mind that makes them amazing. 

In The Wall, the character makes the choice to fight back against her attacker. She makes this decision mostly because someone she loves' life is being threatened. Her choice was right for her in that moment. But it's not a choice every woman can make.

In my dedication I talk about the strength to endure. Sometimes fighting back is the answer but not always, sometimes fighting back might mean being killed. In my own personal experience I'm convinced that's what would have happened and I thank God my loved one had the strength to endure and to survive. 

There is a great deal of blame and self-doubt that goes along with making that choice. It's the classic 'what if' situation where the survivor wonders what she could have done differently to stop the assault from happening. And I'm sure the same goes for those that fought back too. Women blame themselves. I wish I could say to all of them: Whatever happened, it's not your fault, whatever you did to survive was the right choice because you're still here. Support needs to be offered, the choices need to be viewed as empowered.