Protect yourself as you see fit

When is it not a terrifying existence for women, the LGBT+ community and anyone who doesn’t conform to the gender binary living in South Africa?

The last couple of weeks have been absolutely out of control. I finally wrote a blog about my sexual assault/rape about two weeks ago. While I felt lighter after talking about something that still affects me to this day, this isn’t the case for everyone. A lot of people will never feel comfortable talking about their trauma. Why, you may ask?  Well, it’s not like society is particularly supportive to those who report sexual assault, harassment and GBV (gender–based violence).

Chances are the perpetrator is someone you know, who is in your family or even runs in esteemed circles. The numbers do not lie, women are more likely to experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Not just the boogeyman down the road.

As I’ve become more socially conscious and politically aware, I’ve cringed at how vile some of my peers and former friends have been. From racial slurs, to rape jokes and slut-shaming it’s not the space you’d want to talk about a serious trauma. Also, trying to educate people can result in triggering confrontations and more.

Online spaces aren’t safe either and a lot of people don’t share their experiences because the internet is open to pretty much anyone. I have trauma I will not share with anyone because it’ll change the way they view me and they’ll judge me. While, I generally don’t give a fuck about what people perceive about me, it’s tough to know that you’ll have to manage their reactions. Now, you have to deal with someone’s else possibly harmful reaction to trauma you’ve endured.

I open up to people who can listen to my story without judgement but also aren’t going to centre themselves in my trauma. We tend to think, “oh but (insert thing) happened to me too” is a surefire way to make someone feel less alone but some folks just want to share their experience and keep it moving.

And finally, people rarely believe survivors/victims. We need to move away from needing the gory details to believe someone, especially with the stats we have in this country.

So protect yourself as you see fit, whether it’s talking to a professional when you’re ready, confiding in a friend, writing a blogpost or not talking about right now, it’s okay.

You’re still worthy. Even if you don’t feel like it right now.

(P.S – thank you to all the people who messaged, texted and DMed me when I shared my story. I feel a little less alone and hope you did too)

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