Submitted By Allison Gossage
Ever since Aretha Franklin sang the hit song in 1967, the whole nation has been singing about respect. And who doesn’t want respect, right? Today, I have an urgent message to share about sexual assault. Nobody likes talking about it, but maybe that is one reason it is so prevalent. Statistics say that one in three women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted at some point in his or her lifetime. Chances are, you know someone who it has happened to. Maybe they haven’t spoken up because they are ashamed or in denial or disbelief themselves. I hope that someday the taboo associated with sexual abuse and assault will no longer exist, but for now all I can do is be more open about my story and encourage others to know that they are not alone. If you are reading this and you are experiencing shame resulting from a sexually abusive situation, there are some things I want you to know.
1. You’re not alone. It happens to so many people, and yet many people do not have the courage to talk about it. When you are ready to talk about it, go to a trusted friend or adult. We even have two wonderful counselors right on campus; if you talk to one of them, you can be 100% confident that what you say to them will not leave the room. If you aren’t ready to talk to someone face-to-face, www.loveisrespect.org has a peer advocate system where you can chat online – confidentially, of course – with an individual around your age who has been trained in counseling victims of dating abuse.
2. It wasn’t your fault. I know, I know. Before it happened to me, I would always tell people this. I just couldn’t understand how someone who had been a victim of such a heinous act as sexual abuse could believe it was their fault. And then it happened to me and I found myself doing the exact same thing. Don’t let anyone tell you that you were asking for it because of what you were wearing or what you said. Don’t let them tell you that you allowed it because you didn’t verbally say no; silence is not consent.
3. If you’re not okay, that’s okay. If you are okay, that’s okay too. Okay. Let me explain this one. There is no such thing as an abnormal reaction when it comes to sexual assault. You may be emotionally numb following the incident, or you may have feelings of shame and disgust. You may want to talk about it, or you may not be ready to. Whatever you are feeling (or not feeling), it’s completely normal.
4. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. I know I said this already, but this time I am speaking to everyone – not just sexual abuse survivors. I know not all of us are the most sheltered individuals, but especially on a Christian campus, there are things we just don’t like to talk about – this is one of them. Guys, whether you talk about it or not, it still happens. Avoidance is not abolition. Don’t be afraid to take a stand and raise awareness, because this is real life.
5. Healing is possible. It is definitely not a quick and easy process, but don’t give up hope. Healing comes when you share your story with those who will listen, offer wise counsel, and pray with you. This is why we have the Breaking Free ministry. We have cards for you to write down what you are struggling with, and you can put them in any of the boxes labeled “Breaking Free.” This can be anonymous, or you can write your name on the card so that the Breaking Free team knows exactly who to pray for. The team meets weekly to pray for each individual who submitted a card as well as for the campus as a whole. There is power in prayer, and it really is so freeing to share your story and know that you have people praying for you.
Allison Gossage is a sophomore at TFC. She is on the leadership team of Breaking Free, and is passionate about helping others find true freedom in Christ.