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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Lifting Up Survivors' Voices


We are pleased to present posts by StoryCenter staff, storytellers, colleagues from partnering organizations, and thought leaders in Storywork and related fields.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Lifting Up Survivors' Voices

Root Barrett

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

StoryCenter is currently recognizing the importance of speaking out about rape and abuse by sharing new and archived pieces from our blog.

Editor’s Note: this piece was originally posted on Dec. 5, 2013, as part of a series about the global “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” campaign.

Voices from Around the Table: Reflections on Gender-Based Violence

How would you know?

You could have been standing just a few feet away from me in the park when that well-dressed business man walked past so close and whispered so quietly, so only I would hear, “Can I fuck you?”

You would never have known, 

if I hadn’t turned and screamed at the top of my lungs, “What did you say?! Did you say you want to fuck me?!”

I would never have known, 

if a co-worker hadn’t told me one day, as we talked about dysfunctional family behavior passed down through generations, that she had been abused by her brother, and her mother had been abused by her brother, and her grandmother had been abused by her brother. It was suspected, but never confronted. Would it happen again with her kids? Now she and her brother were on good terms. He didn’t know how that moment had stayed with her. Had it stayed with him? Should she say something to him, she wondered, and risk ruining the relationship?

No one knows

…about the time on a group tour, when I lay alone in the dorm bed feverish and sick as a dog, in the middle of the day while everyone else was out doing things as planned. He’d been hounding me for the entire trip. He came in and I wanted him to go away. I pretended I was asleep. He started stroking my hair. He climbed on top of me. I didn’t have the energy to deal with it. I just lay there while he fucked me, pretending to be asleep. It was hot and he was sweaty. 

I forget about this incident a lot. I mention others, but this one stays hidden. For a long time I wasn’t even sure if it was rape. I never told anyone.

In the courtroom, for the first time I knew…

Over a hundred potential jurors were called in. “This is a grand jury case that involves sexual harassment,” the lawyers said. “Would anyone who has experienced sexual harassment please stand up.” I stood up, and looked around. 

Almost every woman in the room was standing.