By Hollie Wilson
A “Victim of opportunity”
“In the year ending September 2021, 41,332 women were victims of rape, in England and Wales a total of 40,572 women were victims of sexual assault”. And “Almost half, of all transgender people have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives”.
It is said “statistics from the UK are limited, but in the USA” “It’s estimated that up to 94% survivors of rape or sexual assault develop symptoms of PTSD in the first two weeks after the event, leading to around 50% of victims suffering long-term symptoms.”
Sexual assault and rape are a crime of opportunity. There is a myth that if you wear a short skirt it puts you at risk. But this isn’t the case.
It is not your fault, whether you were wearing a short dress, walking down the street alone or drank too much. You have a right to do whatever you want, and not be attacked because of it.
“A trauma response is an automatic reaction and cannot be chosen; it is not a logical decision” . There are different types of trauma responses some of them are friend, fight, flight, freeze and flop.
- Friend can be when you call out for help, and/or you try “to befriend the perpetrator by placating, negotiating, bribing, or pleading with them.”
- Fight is where you “physically or verbally attack the perpetrator.”
- Freeze is “a very common reaction to sexual violence where the body goes still and quiet in order to survive an attack”. Freezing does not equal consent but is an instinctual bodily response that happens to try and protect you from further harm.”
- Flop is “similar to freezing, except your muscles become loose and your body goes floppy. This is an automatic reaction that can reduce the physical pain of what is happening to you. Your mind can also shut down to protect itself.” “Flop can also mean that your trauma response is to follow instructions given by the person or people hurting you.”
It is important to try and remember that whether your response was one of the above, a mix, or none of them at all.
“Your survival mechanisms are not good or bad. They protected and saved you, honour them” – Kara Robinson Chamberlain.
Kara is a survivor she was, a “Victim of Opportunity, to Survivor by choice”.
I watched a Ted Talk by Lydia Ward also a survivor, Lydia illustrates that it came down to the decision of “make or break”. She was afraid of carrying her secret for the rest of her life and it eventually killing her. Lydia feared that if she spoke out, no one was going to believe her. In return Lydia felt isolated, alone, broken, and used. She also carried the burden of feeling shame and guilt for something she had no choice in.
Years passed before she had the courage to “speak up and speak out”. “The courage to say for the first time ever this is what happened to me”. Lydia thought, saying those words would be too overwhelming. But it wasn’t. And she said them again and again.
Seconds, minutes, months, years. Time is a continuum we are all chasing. You have the choice when to speak up and how you do it. No matter how long it takes you, it doesn’t diminish the reality of what happened to you. What matters is that you make the choice when the time is right for you.
“Some days it feels like yesterday, but some days it doesn’t even feel like my own life, it feels like someone else’s life”. - ‘Documentary Escaping Captivity: The Kara Robinson Story’ – Kara Robinson Chamberlain
Choosing to be a survivor is a choice.
“It took me over 15 years to even realise it’s ok to feel feelings and it doesn’t mean I’m any less strong” – ‘Documentary Escaping Captivity: The Kara Robinson Story; - Kara Robinson Chamberlain
“That we are who we are because of what happened, but we are not defined by it” – Kara Robinson Chamberlain
If you are reading this and you have suffered sexual violence. You are a survivor, for me you survived an unimaginable ordeal. You are your own hero. If it has just happened, happened years ago, or if continues to happen. I believe you. As Kara says she was a “victim of opportunity”, but you can be a “survivor by choice”.
You can be the writer of your own story, the main character in your epic movie. There’s a myth that victims of sexual assault are broken forever. This is just a myth.
You are all a community of survivors, bonded together under such turmoil. But growing, creating, restoring hope in one another.
As Say It Loud says, “brave conversations, save lives”.
And as I say I want to be a listener to the silenced ones, a listener to the survivors.
Even if your life is full of unimaginable pain. Hang in there, for you are a survivor and if you don’t feel like you are one right now. That’s ok.
For a diamond isn’t defined by the high temperature and pressure causing its formation, or perhaps not even by its beauty.
It just survives under mother nature.
Just like You.