Survivor Culture – Stars Shine Brightest in the Dark

A few months ago I joined Twitter. I needed a space where I could say how I was feeling, I needed freedom to talk about things without causing upset to my family. I didn’t realise back then how much I needed to speak to people that understood, that didn’t need me to explain why I felt certain things, why I seemed ok one minute then a complete mess the next. I was frustrated, and the thoughts and feelings trapped inside me were suffocating me from the inside.

During my time on twitter, I have had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to some amazing, inspiring, caring and supportive people. The stories I have heard have been horrific. The levels of abuse, shocking. Domestic abuse, sexual abuse, child sexual abuse and exploitation, rape, the list goes on. I have learned so much about how I am feeling, things I hadn’t been able to verbalise or understand have become so much clearer, and I have realised that it is okay not to be okay.

But with all those I have met, one thing stands out. No matter what they have been through, no matter what they are going through now, no matter what they know they are about to face, every one of them has the most incredible capacity for kindness. I have witnessed courage and strength, love and thoughtfulness, support and patience, and all without any judgement, without any belittling.

I am in awe of all the wonderful people who, despite their experiences, are the strongest, most inspirational people I have met. They are beacons of light in a void of darkness, they are helping to light a way, giving hope that we will one day be free from the darkness. As I say in the title, stars shine brightest in the dark, and the voices speaking out, the voices helping others through their dark times, and the voices that have been silenced but still fighting to survive through each moment, every single one of them is a bright and beautiful star, and I am grateful to get to see them all sparkling.

To all those I have met so far (and will meet in the future), I am filled with sadness over everything you have been through, and I wish you nothing but happiness in your future. I will never be able to explain how much your presence has helped me, and I know there are many more out there who are unable to speak that feel your support too.

Keep shining bright.


Victim Blaming: It’s so much easier than the truth

There seems to be something inherent in society that makes it easier to believe lies, than to believe the truth. It is easier to believe a woman is hysterical, mental, jealous, unhinged or any other negative suggestion that diminishes her character than it is to believe a man is capable of abuse, sexual violence or rape.

My parents visited me recently. We were watching tv when a man who had been accused of sexual assault came on. They sat and spoke of how sad it was that this poor man’s life had been almost ruined by false allegations. Now, don’t get me wrong, falsely accusing someone of sexual assault is abhorrent, it ruins even more lives and makes it far harder for victims to speak up and, more importantly, to be believed. But I found myself getting very angry.

I don’t know anything about this particular case, but I asked my parents if the allegations had been proven to be false or just unproven? They didn’t know the answer. I asked them where the sympathy was for victims? I asked them how many times do they think an innocent person is accused falsely compared to how many times a victim is disbelieved or failed?

Then today, during a chat with a friend, she also spoke about watching programs about men that had been convicted of rape based on false allegations and how fascinating it was, and how shocking that women behave this way.

I have also been told that my husband ‘doesn’t seem the type’, and that I should keep these ‘deeply personal details to myself as it is inappropriate to share them’.

To stand up and say what has happened to you is such a huge step. To strip yourself down and reveal your shame to a stranger is humiliating, and whilst it isn’t really your shame, it feels like it is, you wear it like a scar you don’t want anyone to see.

I had thought reporting my rapes to the police would make things easier, that it would be a first step towards recovery. Sadly, I was wrong. I have been left feeling disbelieved, like it doesn’t matter.

I fear the additional power it gives my abuser. I fear people believing I falsely accused my husband for any one of the numerous negative reasons women are instantly suspected or accused of, rather than the cold hard fact it is the truth. I was raped by the man I trusted to protect and love me. I was raped by a man the world thinks ‘isn’t the type’. And this is exactly what makes these types of people so dangerous, to everyone, because you don’t see it coming.

The only way to tackle rape is to prosecute. The law needs to change to reflect the nature of the crime, and make more prosecutions possible.

I say it again:

Sex without consent is rape. But rape without punishment is consent.