If you were to ask me what I’m talented at, I’d say it’d be coping with bad experiences. Through my dad being deployed across seas to witnessing the divorce at a young age, I’ve always had a way through smiling tough times and ignoring my emotions, but nothing could have prepared me for the day my life was changed the day I was sexual assaulted from my best friend’s dad.
I don’t remember how old I was or many of the details that happened that day, but I do remember feeling scared. I had gone to a hotel with a pool for my friend’s birthday, and after swimming, I quickly fell asleep. I was soon awakened with my best friend’s dad’s hand up my shirt and alcohol on his breath. That experience changed who I was completely.
I didn’t say anything about it for months, but it felt like this secret was eating me alive. I was sitting by the counter when I muttered out to my mom, “Mr. Martin* touched me in the wrong ways.” My mom couldn’t believe the words that came out of my mouth.
This led to a court day and multiple hours of sitting in front of a jury, only for him to be let off with nothing. No consequences because there wasn’t enough evidence. He’d gotten nothing for impacting my childhood forever.
I’d like to say that I’m the only person who had experienced this, but this happens across the world, and many don’t take the steps to help address the situation.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it’s important to know that sexual assault isn’t always a college girl running down the street at 3 in the morning it’s everywhere in our community. People of every race, age, and gender can, and have, experienced sexual assault.
The RAINN organization, reports that there is an average of 293,000 sexual assaults in the United States each year, and 98% of the assaulters will never spend a day in jail 287,140 people will never receive justice, but this is what this month allows for.
There are many things you and a group of friends can do to help the silenced: Reach out to a friend; it’s never too late to let a survivor to let them know that you’re there for them; listen without judgement and support them when they need people the most. It’s also important to note to be patient, every person has a different healing time and needs time to recover.
It’s important to make your voice heard. The criminal justice system needs to be improved and the only way that can happen is if people share their concern for sexual assault. There are many ways it can be improved from renewing past acts to creating new ones. Missouri has two congress members and eight representatives who you can contact to help bring awareness.
Get involved in your community. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting a movement (although that would be amazing) but it can be simply from showing your support through social media post and encouraging people to see sexual assault as a real issue.
The University of Missouri holds multiple events throughout the month that the community is extremely encouraged to attend and participate in including Denim Day, SAAM National Day of Action: Green Dot Mizzou and Stars Speaks Series: Sexual Assault in the LGBTQA+ Community. For further information about events, visit the Mizzou Events page.
For people who are victims:
You are not alone. The person that attacked you, does not define your worth, there is hope, and there are people more than willing to help, if you need support I strongly advise going to a teacher, a counselor, parent, or hotline. Call 800.656.HOPE (4673).