I figured I'd start this feature which you'll see crop up a lot in the future. I've called it 'Doing Our Bit for Charidee' as its basically all about honouring some of the lesser know charities out there which really deserve a mention.
So first off, I thought I'd shine a bit of light on Project Unbreakable. Since I first asked the question 'Are You a Feminist' in a 2011 blog-post which commended the SlutWalk initiative, I've been quite passionate about charities which help women and men over-come the social stigma attached to sexual abuse. Founded by the admirable 19 year-old budding photographer, Grace Brown, Project Unbreakable was inspired by a shocking confession made by one of her closest friends over dinner one night in New York back in October. Fast-forward to today, and Brown has a successful blog which allows victims of sexual abuse to share their stories with the world through placards emblazoned with a short summary of their own story. Refreshingly, Project Unbreakable isn't about raising money, but rather about raising the self-esteem of the strong men and women who endured unthinkable acts and emerged fighting at the other side. Brown believes that by being able to share their sadness, anger and shame with the world, the world 'takes a little piece of the weight off' the victims, restoring a sense of power and reinforcing the idea that it is not the victims but the rapists, pedophiles and molesters who should be ashamed.
I've chosen five of the most touching stories which I found on Project Unbreakable to share with you, and I've also included a brief paragraph of my own in an attempt to dispel just a few of the counter-productive myths surrounding sexual abuse.
1) Marriage or secure relationship status does NOT mean your partner can take sex whenever they want it. It is still a personal decision which you have the right to make however and for whatever reasons you so wish. If you don't want to have sex you don't have to, no matter what. Anyone that tries to convince you otherwise is grasping desperately at any argument which will numb their guilt as they pressure you into doing something which they know full well that you aren't comfortable with.
2) Anyone that uses your love for them in order to get you to do something you absolutely do not want to do, is using emotional blackmail. If they loved you, they would wait. Furthermore, more than half of sexual assault cases are carried out by a loved family member or friend making it often more difficult to accuse the abuser.
3) Proof of assault or rape will always be useful in court. Scratch your attacker, hard and repeatedly. Bite them. Struggle hard even though it may hurt because every bruise the abuser puts on your body will act as a witness. As hard as it may be, don't shower before telling the police, there will be all kinds of evidence on you which will help you to fight. On the other side, although it is notoriously difficult to send an abuser to jail without the use of this kind of solid evidence, NEVER stop fighting. As long as you tell your story, there will always be someone out there who will listen.
4) Sexual assault is not the victims fault. If you were drugged and passed out, it wasn't your fault because you were in no position to fight the attacker off. If you were a child, confused, not knowing it was wrong, again, you were vulnerable and it was the attacker's duty to make a responsible decision. If there was a group, you were outnumbered. If you had to make a 'deal' in order to get out safe, you did the right thing to protect yourself as well as you could at the time. If you were blackmailed, you were scared. If you had a short skirt on or were flirting, it wasn't an invitation. If it was a person superior to you, you felt trapped. No matter what, it is NEVER the victim's fault.
5) Women are not the only ones who are sexually assaulted and men are not the only ones who abuse. If your story doesn't comply with the more common gender patterns, don't feel even more ashamed than the victims in the stories which do. You have still been abused, your abuser still took advantage of you and still deserves to be punished.
To see more similar confessions, please go check out Project Unbreakable where Grace Brown has been doing fantastic work. In fact, her Tumblr account made it to Time Out's top 30 to follow this year and the site continues to grow daily so Tweet about it, facebook share it and tell your friends. The more people this site reaches, the more people it helps.
Finally, I thought I'd finish off with a few quick tips in order to hopefully prevent us all from ever falling victim to the terrible ordeals which these men and women have survived:
- Don't walk in poorly lit areas alone.
- Carry a rape alarm. If someone gets too close, or makes you feel uncomfortable, click the switch or pull the string and throw the alarm close enough that it is clearly audible but far enough away that the attacker will run to try and turn it off rather than come any closer to you.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Notice who is where and what they are doing there.
- DON'T carry a weapon. More often than not, a victim's own protective weapons is turned against them.
- If you find yourself in an verbally, mentally, emotionally or physically abusive relationship with anyone, family, friend or romantic situation, get out and search for help. Often, sexually abusive relationships start out like this.
- Sexual innuendos, inappropriate body language or suggestive looks are ALWAYS inappropriate in any kind of professional environment. This includes schools, churches, offices, hospitals etc. This kind of behavior should be reported to a more senior member of staff before it escalates into something more.
- NEVER leave a drink which you hope to return to unattended by you in a nightclub. Even if you plan to leave it with a trusted friend, they may turn away for one second as a potential attacker drops a date-rape drug in. Finish your drink before leaving your glass behind, or just buy a fresh one upon your return.
- Don't put yourself in a vulnerable position. Although intoxication is never an excuse for non-consensual sex, being drunk or high may make it easier for an abuser to manipulate you into something which you would normally never consider.
- Watch out for your friends and have them do the same for you.
So that's that! My first ever 'Doing Our Bit for Charidee' and I must say I'm totally inspired by Brown's efforts so far. She's really started something meaningful which can help people without having to invest a mass of time or money into it. I love to see social networking help people in such a positive way.
Had you heard of Project Unbreakable before? Which confessions touched you the most? Do you have any other tips in order to prevent or combat sexual abuse?
Love and snuggles