Why break the silence ?
One of the most harmful aspects of sexual assault is the silence surrounding it. Many victims suffered atrocities without ever being able to tell anyone. Keeping such a secret can lead to the victim developing feelings of shame, guilt, isolation and fear. Talking about a sexual assault that happened to her as a child, a teen or an adult is not an easy decision. It can be a difficult experience and can also be a way to stop an ongoing situation of sexual violence.
Coming out of isolation and breaking the silence are key elements of a recovery process for the sexual assault victim. If she chooses to talk to you about it, it is because she trusts you enough to share her true life story, hoping to get a compassionate response to her suffering. Talking about her assault is essential and liberating.
It is sometimes difficult to understand why a victim keeps silent or kept silent for many years. There can be many reasons which prevent or prevented her from breaking the silence.
We share with you some of the reasons they expressed :
- fear of the perpetrator;
- fear of reprisals;
- feeling like they are the only ones to have had this happen;
- feelings of guilt and shame for what happened;
- dread of hearing nasty comments;
- fear of not being believed;
- feeling responsible for what happened;
- at times, conflicting emotions towards the perpetrator;
- fear of legal proceedings;
- fear of upsetting the life of their relatives and loved ones;
- fear of the reactions and comments of those around them;
- fear of being in touch with their own emotions;
It is not all victims that keep silent about the sexual assault that happened to them. Many have talked about it to someone, however, without receiving a nurturing and supportive response. Instead of being believed and protected as they had a right to expect, they were maybe ignored, blamed, ridiculed or assaulted even more. And even if we believed them, we may have minimized, trivialized or even justified the assault, for example, by making the victims feeling responsible for it. They then integrated that’s it, best not talking about it anymore.
Talking about the assault has its advantages, although it might be difficult for the victims to identify them. We believe that breaking the silence, talking about their experience, sharing their suffering, understanding what happened to them and the impacts in their lives and establishing relationships based on trust, etc. can contribute to giving them tools to regain power in their lives.
As well, choosing to withhold some information that they believe is too personal or that they simply do not want to disclose is not a lie; it is a protection mechanism.
We must let the victim choose the best moment and the best circumstances for her to talk about the sexual assault. We must also respect whether she wants a hug or not. She is the only one who can establish her limits in regard to the people with whom she wants to share her experience.
Here is a list of reasons why victims decide to talk about the assault :
- to overcome their shame;
- to feel that they are not alone anymore and different from others;
- to stop following the perpetrator’s rules;
- to protect other people from being assaulted;
- to denounce the person guilty of the assault;
- to feel a sense of relief;
- to make progress, get through the stage of denial and face the impacts in their lives;