Confronting assault, abuse and rape culture

Anna Malesiewski, Assistant Editor

This blog is dedicated to both mental and physical wellbeing. This post is going to touch on something that tremendously impacts both.

Sexual assault, abuse and rape culture. 

This is an issue that has been near and dear to my heart this week. I feel that I would be doing an injustice if I do not use the platform I have to talk about it. 

Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Only 0.005% of these perpetrators will end up in prison. 

Young people on college campuses are within the age group that is the highest risk for experiencing sexual assault. 54% of sexual assault victims are from ages 18 to 34. 

I do not know a woman in my circle who has not experienced sexual assault of some kind. That is a major issue, to put it lightly.  

I was sexually assaulted when I was 15. And again at 19. I have been deeply frustrated, disgusted and saddened not only with my experiences, but with the fact that I know so many who have stories like them. 

I do not come forward about this for pity, condolences or revenge. I come forward to contribute to an end of sexual assault and rape culture. 

Why do boys who do this (I will not refer to them as men in this piece, or ever) think they are unstoppable? 

Why is it so common for the expression of acts of sexuality to be a power struggle? Why are sexual acts so commonly compounded with violence?

When I first began exploring sexuality, I was 15. I was met with force, damage and destruction. Every encounter thereafter was tainted. 

My first experience with romantic love was also my first experience with abuse. Luckily, my first heartbreak at 16 was my first taste of freedom. I wish I could warn myself not to get locked up again at 18. 

At 18 I learned again what it feels like to be trapped. While at 16 I was bound by metaphorical tape, at 18 I was bound by metaphorical heavy metal chains that seemed impossible to escape from. 

And because of this, I got really good at brushing off abuse. 

This led to darkness within my soul. A darkness that dimmed the very aspects of my being and suddenly I had no idea who I was outside of a victim.

I don’t want to be a victim anymore. I don’t want the women in my life to be victims anymore. 

I want to create. I want to write. I want to dance. I want to love. I want to live. 

I want to know who I am outside of the cycle of abuse. 

I want to know who I am as Anna. I want to know who I am outside of what someone did to me. 

As women, I want us to shift our identities from victims to individuals. To storytellers, artists, creators, singers, dancers, academics and lovers. 

As women, I want us to get good at saying no. And I want men to get even better at hearing it. 

I know some really amazing men. My father, professors, peers and friends. But I also know some terrible ones. Every single admirable man in my life has one thing in common: respect. 

I’ve seen my father stick up for women he doesn’t even know who have been catcalled at the grocery store. I’ve seen friends take women’s studies courses just to be more knowledgeable about the struggles we face. I’ve had professors encourage the strength that lies within my femininity. Why don’t we uplift men like these more often, rather than turning a blind eye to assault, abuse and misogyny. 

Let’s stop turning a blind eye to men who assume the right to control how women live and behave. Let’s stop giving up the things we love to make abusers happy. Let’s start acknowledging the cruelty that sometimes lies behind charm. Let’s start standing up for ourselves when we are belittled. Let’s stop taking the blame for things that are not our fault. 

I am 19 and four of the most formative years in the process of finding my identity have been stolen from me. Instead of finding out who I am, I spent four years stifling myself. I want to meet the woman I truly am.

I know I will find her. Someday. Somewhere in this process of healing I wish I didn’t have to endure. 

But through it I have learned I am a woman who is wildly capable. Who is fiercely strong. Who is dedicated to veracity and is intolerable of injustice. I wish that for every woman. 

I cannot tell myself at 15 that it will be worth it. Because nothing can justify my experiences.

But I can tell 15-year-old Anna that she will be a great woman. And I can tell other women that they have the same capability.