Becoming a Survivor

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Published October 22, 2015
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The Montclarion
By Melisa Vallovera
By Melisa Vallovera

Editorial Cartoon by Melisa Vallovera

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, “There is an average of 293,066 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year [in the United States].” However, just because these people are deemed victims of sexual violence by the legal system does not mean they are required to take action through the legal system.

In order to break the cycle of fear and hatred that people have faced in the past, many of today’s sexual violence victims have chosen to speak out about what they have gone through. Many people have found their own unique way to do so, which major news sources have recently given attention to.

One of the most notable survivors of sexual assualt who stepped forward was Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who carried around a mattress as part of her performance art piece Carry that Weight when her alleged rapist was not expelled from the university.

Other survivors have told their stories to news media, like the 35 women who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault or rape. Even the Montclair State University student, whose alleged attacker was recently arrested, orginally commented about her situation via social media.

By speaking out, these women have refused to present themselves as victims. They have identified themselves as survivors of sexual violence. By coming forward and reporting the incident to the authorities, survivors have allowed themselves to take back their power and seek justice through the legal system. They refuse to stay silent on rape or sexual assault.

Although it is extremely difficult to relive such a terrible moment and tell others about it, it is crucial to put an end to the cycle of victim blaming. In the past, victims have been encouraged to be ashamed of what happened to them and to stay quiet, but that is all changing.

By not submitting to the traditional role assigned by societal norms, survivors have been able to form communities of mutual support and love. This allows individuals who may have experienced sexual violence to have a safe place where they do not feel judged.

These communities are not just beneficial for those who are within the group, but are also great tools to provide information and awareness to those who have not been affected by sexual violence. These survivor communities have been able to support programs that help to show victims that they are not alone and that they are stronger than those who choose to harm them.

Activities like the Amber Rose Slut Walk draw large crowds of survivors and allow them to take a stand against sexual violence in this country. By coming out to support causes like this, survivors prove that numbers are on their side. Also, events of such a large scale help to spread awareness and understanding across the nation.

Survivors are creating a wave of change in the United States by simply taking a stand and talking about their experience as survivors of sexual violence. Survivors are raising a new generation of people who know that being a victim does not define one’s existence. They are raising awareness nationally and teaching others how to be a survivor, not a victim.

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