Abuse is something that happens every day, but not many people are aware of it. This issue is one that has an effect on women and men all over the world. I believe that we need to work to fight against unhealthy relationships and build healthy relationships, making the world a safer place. People do not realize how much abuse happens; every 107 seconds, another sexual assault occurs and 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
In 2013, when I was sixteen years old, my life rapidly changed when I could not keep my “secret” any longer. After living with such immense fear and shame, I finally told my mother that my father had been doing inappropriate things to me. The word “molested” filled me with so much anxiety and shame and saying this word came with unbearable struggle. As my depression worsened, I decided to write a letter to my mom as the words were too hard to say out loud. I pleaded for help. Through this dark time, I somehow gained a strength that made me realize that perhaps I could make a difference. One thing that helped me fight each day was something that my mom told me at the beginning of this ordeal; I have the power to take a stand and make a difference. At the age of eighteen, I went to court and was granted a restraining order against my father. I realized that I could possibly protect others from going through what I had gone through. I went from feeling helpless to feeling extremely important and confident. I could save someone else from this trauma. I am a fighter, I am a survivor, and I am someone who can make a difference.
Many people ask me if I know my abuser, because TV shows so frequently portray rapes as violent attacks committed by strangers. However, my abuse came from people that I knew and trusted, to varying degrees. These were men of authority, power, peers, family members. I knew to have my guard up and to be vigilant around strangers, but around those that I thought would protect me, I just did not see it coming. Not only was my body violated, but my basic faith and trust in family and friends was forever compromised and is something I still struggle with today. In fact, according to rainn.org, approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. Even worse, some people ask me what I was wearing and if I triggered it; this is victim-blaming,and it is not acceptable. People get sexually abused and assaulted because there are perverts and rapists out there who prey on children and exploit vulnerabilities. People get raped because rapists rape. Period. Children get sexually abused because pedophiles sexually abuse. Period. People have no idea how much abuse happens! If I am in a group of ten girls, I would venture to say that at least 6-7 of us would raise our hands to say that we’ve been sexually abused, raped or assaulted in one form. I am not surprised anymore when my girlfriends tell me that they have been victims of abuse. What surprises me is when women get through childhood, adolescence and college WITHOUT being abused!
Abuse does not wear neon-flashing lights. Victims rarely want to talk about it because their abuser will lead them to believe it is their fault, or that the abuse will increase if they report it. We need to know the signs of abuse because you may be someone’s only hope of escape and we need to know where to go for help because we are not superheroes and these stories do not always have fairytale endings. No victim of abuse will ever become fully “recovered” and we cannot save abused love ones with our own power. We need to get conversations going because abuse is real, but it is easy to hide until it is too late. Domestic violence is a phrase many know, but they do not fully understand it until it happens to them. Domestic violence is both a national and worldwide crisis. Women ages 16-24 are most likely to be victimized by their partners.
Sexual assault and relationship violence occur predominantly on college campuses. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will suffer from sexual assault or relationship violence while at college. This is a staggering statistic and when compared to High Point University that is 1, 792 students who will fall victim to sexual violence. That’s 1,792 too many. Our campus only has around 4,500 students. This is not okay. We as students need to recognize while this is still a national issue, it affects us right here at our own university. We need to be able to recognize the different signs of the beginning stages of a manipulative relationship, that in time could become violent.
Domestic violence happens on college campuses more than we want to admit, but the global scale of this issue is also astonishing. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Around the world, at least one in every three women have been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during their lifetime. Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
Domestic violence does not only affect the women, but their children too. About 10 million children witness domestic violence annually. We need to teach those children from the start that physical violence or spoken manipulation is not love. Those children deserve to see a healthy relationship in their lifetime. They should not grow up thinking violence is the way to love someone.
We, as a college campus, and as a society need to start promoting healthy relationships and start informing others what real love should look like. We owe it to those victims to speak on their behalf and stop this violence epidemic. It is our job to work for all those who have lost their lives and help stop domestic violence. We need to inform others who are bystanders how to intervene and recognize early signs of manipulation. We need to teach young girls their worth and how they deserve to be treated. We need to start teaching children early what love is and how they should behave in a relationship.