Breaking the Silence

Though the work of Global Rights for Women focuses on systems change and legal form, we believe that in order to do our work effectively, we have to be continuously connected to the voices and experiences of survivors. In a four-part series on trauma-informed skills, Twin Cities, Minnesota advocate and survivor Sarah Super shares her insights on how we can be trauma-sensitive in our support of survivors of gender-based violence. Read on for the final installment in Sarah’s series. Click here for Parts One, Two and Three in the series.

Survivors of sexual violence surround each of us. I didn’t learn this until I was raped. Before I was sexually assaulted, I could not name one survivor I knew. No one had talked to me about their own experiences of surviving sexual violence, so I assumed sexual violence wasn’t a lived reality for my friends and family.

But I was wrong. In the first six weeks after being raped, I learned firsthand that silence surrounds and protects sexual violence. And I learned why sexual assault was something very few people felt safe talking about: from the failure of our criminal justice system to hold perpetrators accountable to the shame and stigma our community casts on sexual assault victims to the lack of trauma-informed allies. In my own experience, I was discouraged from talking about what happened to me for fear that it would risk the outcome of the court process. I was shamed that I had chosen a rapist for a boyfriend, as one person told me. My life was dissected in attempts to analyze and prepare for whatever defense my rapist’s team of attorneys and supporters might come up with.

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