Surviving horrific events such as child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assaults and sexual harassment is difficult enough. Yet the survivors who choose to speak out are often labelled as ‘attention seekers’.
This doesn’t change, regardless of the survivors status. From everyday people to those who are in the public eye. Even at times, the #metoo campaign was regarded as attention seeking. A-list celebrities were accused of using it as an opportunity to put themselves back into the limelight. From my own experience, I have found that time and time again, others would rather silence me or change the subject when I choose to speak up.
Yet what others do not seem to understand is that speaking out is essential. Not only is it important for those who lack the understanding to learn about the realities of these ordeals, in order to prevent it from happening to their loved ones, it also plays a vital role in a survivors recovery. For example one of the adversities that I faced was growing up with Domestic Violence. Ending up barricaded in a room to stay safe was a normal occurrence in everyday life. I learned to fear dominant men and came to the false conclusion that the behaviour my father exhibited was exactly how a father was supposed to be. They were to be feared and it was expected that they would cause harm to you. It never even dawned on me that this was not how everyone else spent their time at home. Not until recent years at least.
Children are a product of their environments. They learn from your teachings and the world around them. Those who grew up not knowing any other way of life, usually go one of two ways. One is to retract into themselves and deny that the abuse ever occurred. The other is to be curious and confused about why their upbringing was so different to their peers. They tend to question their own beliefs and the world around them. If this upbringing was so wrong and a violation of one’s human rights, then why did nobody step in? Why were they left to live those so important formative years in terror and in fear? Even bouts of jealousy occur. Why didn’t anyone else have to live through this? Why weren’t we entitled to a childhood like everyone else? You are haunted by that one word… Why? It’s a word you learn to hate. Everything about what you’ve experienced will always lead you back to why.
This is part of the reason why survivors chose to speak up. They’re not asking for your pity or for you to feel sorry for them. What happened can not be changed but there will be long-lasting damage. All a survivor wants to do is understand. Yet this society we live in denies them of that by silencing them. Surely by silencing a survivor, you are just as bad as their abusers? It is still a controlling hold over them. These topics should not be a taboo anymore. It happens to way too many people for it to be one. Yet public response is to victim blame or ignore the voices that are so desperately trying to be heard.
This society needs to listen to survivors. For a society, so advance, it is so far behind in these horrific social issues. Their voices are a tool that can provide understanding and education. They have experienced the unimaginable. Rather than treating a survivor as an outsider, why is society not listening and taking their experiences onboard? It could change so much. Schools and employers could be shown what to look out for that is not based on outdated information, the authorities would learn how to handle these situations with more compassion and understanding, tougher sentences could be enforced. And maybe if attitudes towards survivors change, more survivors will come forward to report crimes or they might even have the courage to leave their abusers sooner. You never know, this education might just save a life.