Thursday, April 10, 2014

Causes: Let's talk about sexual assault

From:  The Coloradoan


A group of survivors, supporters and policymakers gathered Tuesday in the Old Supreme Court Chambers of the State Capitol in Denver for the Colorado kickoff of Sexual Assault Awareness month, led by the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault and attended by members of our local Sexual Assault Victim Advocate, or SAVA, Center.

Survivors of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence came to the podium one by one to share their stories. Sitting in the audience, I couldn’t help but feel a pang in my heart and outrage for the innocence that has been lost, security that has been stolen and bodies that have been violated.

I have known far too many women and men who either could not voice the crimes against them or, even worse, who could not find a listening ear when they were ready to share. That’s why the theme of this month’s efforts, “Let’s Talk About It,” hits a special place in my heart.



Colorado poet and sexual assault survivor Dominique Christina, who performed a sampling of slam poetry she wrote about her childhood assaults and recovery process, described her artistic process and the poetry she has written about sexual assault as a “reckoning.” She endured multiple assaults from family members and family friends as a child.

In one poem, she tells one attacker — who sent her a Facebook friend request later in life — that she practices the “daily ritual of forgetting your name.”

“You should know, I did not die,” Christina said. “I kept my body mostly to myself. I woke up in the mornings; I did not grab the razor. I did not swallow the pills, and I could have. Every day, I could have.”

Throughout the day’s events, I heard more than once the phrase, “If I can keep this from happening to one more person, I will.”

Leaving the event, I walked along the 16th Street Mall back to my car. I thumbed through my phone, returning missed calls and replying to emails. Pausing to set up a meeting with a source, I set some materials from the event next to me.

While I was on the phone and caught in the hustle and bustle of recouping a day out of the office, a young man stopped next to me and saw the materials. I got off the phone, and he started asking a dizzying array of questions. “What do you do?” “How did you get this?” “Why do you tell these stories?” “How do you tell these stories?”

After a few minutes of Q&A, he began telling me about his mother’s rape. He began talking about how he wished more people would understand and talk about sexual assault. He asked me to keep telling these stories — to keep giving people a voice.

In that one interaction, the point was driven home: “Let’s talk about it.”

I’m not naive. I know that just talking about it may not completely solve or eradicate sexual assault. But I think it’s a pretty good place to start.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault and are interested in telling your story, contact me at SarahKyle@coloradoan.com. If you are a survivor of sexual assault and just aren’t ready, know that whether you voice it or not, Colorado stands with you.

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