We Must Never Underestimate the Power of Sexual Assault Survivors' Stories11/28/2014
by Tyece Wilkins I always wondered how I would untie the disjointed knots of this story. Five hundred and ninety nine days have passed b...
by Tyece Wilkins
I always wondered how I would untie the disjointed knots of this story. Five hundred and ninety nine days have passed between then and now. I’ve lived in different states. Signed three leases. Cried 1 billion microscopic tears in the middle of the day and in the middle of the dark. In those 599 days, I unearthed that rape is not a story with a neat beginning, middle or end. I do not have to mince my words, hoping not to offend others or reduce their tears. I do not have to diminish their stereotypes or teach them something. I do not have to etch my initials in feminist history. I do not have to tell my story cleanly. I do not have to tell it once. I do not have to tell it in one form. But I do have to tell my story.
When a friend of mine told me another friend of hers had just launched a website focused on personal essays, I decided to submit a piece. I always figured I would write about being raped, and I’m not sure what it was about Dana or The Apposite that finally propelled me to make that move. But it felt right and, in retrospect, I know it was. The above paragraph was the opening to my essay, “Not Suitable for Public Consumption.”
I know I am not alone when I think about what it means to move from private shame to a public narrative, and how much of a milestone that is in a rape survivor’s healing process. There is an inordinate amount of victim-blaming and shaming that occurs around sexual assault. It does not help that many of us—myself included—grow up believing what happens in your house stays in your house. But maybe it’s these same deep-rooted beliefs that also keep our community from speaking openly and honestly about incest, sexual assault, and rape. In the same way that we have to advocate on our own behalf when it comes to safe, consensual, and enjoyable sex, we have to advocate for ourselves to reverse the canon that we should not air our dirty laundry.
It’s not dirty. It’s not shameful. It’s real life.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak openly with Jenai, creator of Nai’s Visions, and Yetti, creator of YettiSays.com about life after sexual assault.
For Jenai, writing about her experience was inevitable. However, for a while, she second-guessed publishing the account of her sexual assault after she found out her mother was upset about it.
“The blog picked up a lot more than I expected and my mom had been promoting it,” Jenai said.
Jenai pulled the lost down for some time, but has since re-published it. She cites the encouragement of her fellow Black Girls Who Blog community for pushing her to speak her truth.
“I have a community of support that influences me as a woman. I know it’s safe for me to have different layers and talk about my experiences. I do not have to be confined.”
For Yetti, the process of publishing work about being raped is an evolution in process.
“I wasn’t very comfortable writing about it, and it still unnerves me having it on the blog where anyone can read it whenever they want.”
But, as the comments and jokes about rapes increased on social media, Yetti knew she had to give voice to her own story.
“It got to the point where I saw multiple comments being made about rape victims on my [Twitter] timeline. People were speaking about it as though they had never been in contact with someone who experienced rape. I didn’t get to the point where I was ready, but I got to a point where I had to take action,” she said.
It is very easy to spit off a deluge of statistics about sexual assault, but we don’t always see or hear the stories behind those statistics. Talking to women like Jenai and Yetti, along with penning my own essays, has shown me there is unspeakable power in women recounting sexual assault openly, freely, and without shame.
Perhaps that is what is most important for me–the fact that I am still standing, I am still here, and I am writing the stories I believe the world needs to hear. I am turning ugliness into beauty, darkness into light, mayhem into my own message.
Please note: This essay is an excerpt from a six-part series currently running on Twenties Unscripted entitled, “The War on Black Women’s Bodies: Redefining Ourselves, Our Spirits and Our Silhouettes.”
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos
Tyece Wilkins is a writer based in the DC Metro area. She is the creator and editor-in-chief of Twenties Unscripted, a blog for millennial black women. Twenties Unscripted won the 2013 Black Weblog Award for Best Personal Blog and was listed in Clutch Magazine’s “Top 5 Most Underrated Blogs You Should Read.” You can follow Tyece on Twitter @tyunscripted.