April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Although there is a month dedicated to the movement to end sexual violence, it still feels really uncomfortable to talk…or even type about. Here let me hashtag it and see if it’s less awkward: #sexualassaultawarenessmonth #SAAM
Nope. Still super hard.
I know I’m not alone. One in three women has been a victim of physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. (1) One in five women has been a victim of rape. (2)
So I embrace the awkward, the uncomfortable, the hard, the unimaginable for all of us as we move through our lives and roles as much more than mothers. We’re survivors.
I have made it through the trauma of sexual abuse and I am physically strong. The outer strength I possess hides an inner vulnerability that is tested often in motherhood. I know that I will always face challenges, but here are a few things I’m learning:
I have a commitment to speak the truth about surviving sexual abuse, and I have a duty to consider what I say about it, how I say it, and how it affects other people–even the one that inflicted the trauma. I don’t do it perfectly, but I do desire to foster the type of open communication that encourages anyone I come in contact with to feel safe enough to share about their own experiences with me, especially my children.
Healthy Body Image
I was born into a culture that tells me my body is more ornamental than instrumental. How much more so my own children? I have a responsibility to model healthy body image behaviors and teach them a comprehensive approach to wellness that nurtures their body, mind and spirit.
Forgiveness is a process and is as unique to me as I am to the world. For me, there is little freedom apart from forgiveness. Bitterness and anger use up energy that I need to love others. My daughters benefit from my desire to learn how to release bitterness while remembering very clearly my rights to healthy boundaries.
I’m fortunate to have been heard and believed when I began to use my voice about the sexual abuse I endured as a child. I’m grateful to be engaged in a continuous dialogue about the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (3) and their impact on my wellness as an adult. I am blessed to benefit from the efforts of countless individuals and organizations bringing awareness to trauma informed care.
My encouragement to you-from one mom to another-is to become part of the conversation in your own authentic way. Your story might empower another woman to break the cycle of violence in her life, her family, her home, her workplace, her community.
Awareness that leads us to action has the power to create a new culture. Commit to being the parents, the coaches, the community members, the club leaders, the bystanders that know sexual violence is a problem. It may never be any less awkward or uncomfortable than it is right now, but engaging your voice can play a critical role in changing the culture. Be willing to learn how to help and believe you are capable of it. Someone needs your one small voice.