Trigger warning: content related to sexual violence.
Today’s #WomanCrushWednesday post is related to an issue which is incredibly important to address and has great personal and societal implications in my mind. I’m dedicating this Wednesday to two people: Danielle Tansino and myself (I know, I’ve already called myself my woman crush Wednesday like 2 weeks ago — what’s up with that?).
April 1st (that’s today, if you haven’t been pranked to remind you yet) marks the beginning of a month-long campaign founded by a sexual assault survivor named Danielle Tansino. Red My Lips (a deliberate play on words of the idiom “read my lips”). The campaign asks individuals to wear red lipstick all month long (or whenever you want to/can) to mimic “Movember”‘s visual messaging to bring awareness to sexual violence, address unproductive and hurtful victim-blaming, and put an end to common misconceptions (read “ignorance”) regarding sexual harassment, assault and rape. Furthermore, they encourage sexual violence survivors to reclaim power from their abusers by calling themselves “Warriors”. It’s a wonderful cause, and I encourage you to check them out on their Facebook page. The organizers recognize that not everybody is willing to wear red lipstick for 30 days (understandable), so they’ve come up with a list of alternative ways that you can support the movement, such as writing “Red My Lips” on clothing/your hand, wearing a red article of clothing every day, painting your nails red, and printing out a picture of red lips and putting them on a car window. These are all visible ways to show support to this cause and be able to start a dialogue about it to actually make a difference!
A quick search on Google can provide millions of results revealing the prevalence of sexual violence in North America, but here’s a few quick statistics for you to mention if you choose to start a conversation about it:
- 1/2 of Canadian women ages 16+ have experienced sexual/physical violence (Source)
- 1/4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (Source)
- Victims of sexual assault are 4x more likely to contemplate suicide (Source)
- Females are 11x more likely to be the victims of sexual violence than males (Source)
- Male victims comprised 8% of police-reported sexual violence in 2008 (Source)
- 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker (Source)
Don’t forget that these statistics are in Canada and the U.S. — the numbers are much higher in many developing countries around the world.
One of the Red My Lips goals is to destigmatize the discussion about sexual violence and to raise awareness by demonstrating its prevalence. The campaign also aims to empower survivors of sexual violence. For these reasons, I am dedicating the second part of this week’s #WomanCrushWednesday to myself.
From a young age, I was sexually abused by a family member who took advantage of me. It went on for years before I realized the reality of my situation and reported it to my family and the police in 2010. This situation had a huge impact on my life — my mental health declined, my self-esteem plummeted, my outlook on life reached an all-time low, and I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD. Through counselling, education, and speaking out about my experience, I have reached a point where I am much more mentally healthy, but I am still reminded of what I went through (and what my family and friends went through as a result of it) every day. I have been told time and time again that I shouldn’t post my experience with sexual violence on social media because it is “too personal” and because it’s an “awkward topic”. I’m doing it anyway, because it’s important to do! I should not feel ashamed that I was abused, and nor should anyone else in my position. It has taken me years to truly embody the idea that sexual violence is never the victim’s fault. I should be able to post whatever I want about my experience, and I should not be made to feel guilty for doing so.
I share this not to gain pity, or even support, but to drive the point home that sexual violence is much more common than you might think. I’m sure each and everyone of you reading this knows of at least one person other than myself who has experienced sexual violence. It is a reality that is far too common for far too many individuals, but it is one that we can all work together to change. Other than participating in the Red My Lips campaign, other things that you can do to help are:
- Get involved with organizations that work to influence policies regarding sexual violence
- Support survivors of sexual violence
- Volunteer/fundraise for organizations that support survivors
- Share posts on social media which work to empower sexual violence survivors and reduce victim-blaming