For My Friend, Who is Stronger Than I Can Ever Hope To Be

Dear Reader,

I have reached my tipping point. I have reached it, and I can’t stay silent any longer.

Today I was reminded about how important it is to speak out, to speak up, to break the silence, about sexual assault. Unfortunately this reminder was underscored with another clear message – our institutions are designed to keep us silent. We are convinced that we need to keep these secrets, but to what end?

So, I am angry. Actually, I’m fucking furious.

Just over a year ago, one of my closest friends told me about being sexually assaulted earlier that year. We were on Skype, and the video wasn’t working, so I couldn’t see her face and she couldn’t see mine. Maybe that was good. Maybe that made it easier. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I could hear the pain. I could hear it, and I could feel it, all at once.

I wouldn’t say that was my tipping point, though.

The months passed and she continued to share her experiences with me. In my naivety, my hopeless optimism – my stupidity, really – I thought breaking the silence was it. Like finally healing by forming a scab over an open wound that may leave a faint scar, a reminder, but wouldn’t really hurt anymore. I have to roll my eyes as I write this, because it isn’t like that at all.

The more I heard, the more I realized that my unrealistic ideas about how much support is out there started to crumble. This was especially true at the institutional level, when I learned that the initial reaction the Police had was one of skepticism based on the timeline of her reporting. The very people that we are supposed to feel safe with, especially when we have done nothing wrong, treated her like it was her fault. Like she had done something wrong by not saying anything immediately. How is that fair?

By this point, my cup was starting to get full.

I know this isn’t a full and accurate description, but from my current perspective I see it like a wound, beginning to heal, and each time another “helper” gets involved, be it the Police, the University, or another institutional body involved in the process, that scab gets ripped off, and the wound gets deeper, it takes longer to heal. Or in some cases the wound is still open and other people come along and rub dirt in it.

The barriers to healing are ingrained in our institutions, in our society, in people.

So this past weekend when I heard about more failures of the system to bring some – any – semblance of justice in cases of sexual assault and harassment, failures that were completely visible to me as someone outside the situation, failures that punish victims and all but reward perpetrators, I had had enough.

If we can’t rely on these institutions to take a stand against violence, what do we have?

I have finally reached my tipping point, and it’s time to do something about it.

Britney De Costa

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