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Sexual Assault is real.
Social and cultural objectification, minimization, and sexualization of women and children is rampant, sanctioned, and celebrated.
Sexual abuse creates a lifetime of pain for victims and their families.

Those who’ve been victimized struggle, throughout their lives, to feel safe, grounded, trusting, heard, valued, and believed. Many self-harmattempt or commit suicide.

Those who are lucky enough to survive remain scarred. Survivors may eventually heal well enough to have days which are no longer completely overshadowed by their abuse.

Those less fortunate remain fragile, broken, and unable to feel light or joy.

Abuse victims are male and female, young and old. Abuse is overt and covert. Abusers are parents, family members, neighbors, teachers, clergy, doctors, coworkers, mentors. They are always trusted adults, and most often known and close to the victim.
Because I am a female abuse survivor, I can only legitimately write from this place.

Rampant victim blaming adds insult to injury. When women speak up about their abuse, it often incites a rabid social response. For so many women, it’s easier to endure, to remain silent, to self-blame, rather than risk public condemnation for being a person who was victimized. Social ridicule has broken many victims who’ve tried to go public.

Women are used, abused, blamed, and ignored, or actively vilified.

Given this culture, it’s safe and best to think that no sane woman would falsely claim to have been abused, and that any woman who speaks up must be risking everything in order to bravely speak the truth.

There are (thankfully very few) unstable women who’ve NOT been abused, but claim so merely for personal gain: attention; money; power; sympathy; divorce settlement; or as a twisted, borrowed ‘badge of honor’. This tactic is short-sighted and unstable. But, I know one such woman:
She was a single parent, struggling financially with no income, living in a home which was in foreclosure. She’d taken that home from her previous husband. She met a man who was financially well-off and went to work, even proudly and publicly claiming she bewitched and seduced him (lucky her!). They married, but after a short time, she left and expected that since they lived in a state which allows equitable distribution of shared wealth, she’d get half of all he had. Once she learned her signed and witnessed prenuptial agreement barred her from collecting this grand prize, she panicked. She then claimed he abused her, thinking this would embarrass him enough to just pay her off.  Her story of abuse was distorted, ill-conceived, and provably false.

Lying about her victimhood has temporarily worked in her favor: she’s gained monthly spousal support while dragging their divorce process along at great length (it’s been going on for as long as that couple had been married). She continues to financially benefit from her claim. But support won’t last. She’ll squeeze all she can, and then move on to her next profitable man-project. Her almost-ex has always been an openhearted, joy-filled man. He’s recuperating, working to gain back his trust in others, his previously well-respected name, and the funds she’s drained. I’m hoping his heart will heal.

So, to those (few) who falsely claim survivorship in order to cash in, I’ll use a phase I rarely employ:
Shame on you.
Shame, for thinking you’re harming only one person (the man you’re trying to break, the system you’re trying to play). But there’s a much larger picture here, with far more damaging consequences.  You’re harming us all.  False abuse claims directly harms all women (daughters, sons, friends, community), making it more difficult for those who’ve truly been assaulted to come forward, to speak up, to be believed, and to heal.The fact that I can write about this is testimony to the important women who’ve come before me. Brave, powerful women spoke out, shared their true stories, and risked everything. Smart and loving women came to my side and offered their time, insight, and strength, so I could begin to understand the most important parts of my own story:
It was not my fault. I had a right to be heard, believed, protected, and respected. At the heart of that message, I learned that I can survive.

To those who’ve been abused: Keep talking. I hear you and I believe you.
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Extras

Trigger warning: These videos may contain content which could feel distressing.
Rupi Kaur’s Spoken Word Poem and TEDx Talk, “I’m Taking My Body Back
Kayley Dixon, age 14,  “A Touch of Sexual Assault,”
Rape Poem To End All Rape Poems“, Rutgers University Spoken Word Poetry
Things I Wish I Could Tell My Mom, Spoken Word Poetry
Ode To Bitch Face,  Spoken Word, Olivia Gatwood
Trauma Is Irreversible: How It Shapes Our Choice, Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s TED Talk on incest
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