Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Finger on the Trigger

Today all around the country, women and hopefully some men will take up mattresses and pillows in solidarity.  Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz was raped on campus by a fellow student, and though other women also accused the same asshole man of assault, the university did not find him responsible.  To this day, the perpetrator remains on campus along with his victims.  This failure of the university to protect its female students has pushed Emma to push back.

She decided to carry a mattress around campus, like the one she was raped on, until the university does the right thing and expels her rapist. Since the beginning of her movement, Emma has rarely had to carry the mattress alone.  When she started the project, she said people would be allowed to help her but that no one could carry it for her, since it is her weight and burden.  But, people have been supportive from the start and helped her carry it almost completely.  Why?  Because people, especially women, are likely to understand this feeling.

Today, at a local university, I'll be carrying a pillow (didn't have a mattress to spare) with a quote from something someone said to me after my assault.  This to me combines Carrying the Weight and Project Unbreakable, two movements meant to empower survivors of sexual assault.

While I am more than happy to do this, I also am keenly aware of the problem.  That while I want to be strong and help others and raise awareness, doing events like this reminds me of what I went through.  Suddenly, I feel back at the beginning.  Back when I couldn't get through the day without crying.  Feeling like I couldn't tell people because they would blame me for what happened.  It's not odd for me or other survivors to experience PTSD.  In fact, it's something I've dealt with from the start.  It's taken me a long time to be comfortable talking about what happened to me.  But that doesn't mean I'm not still affected by triggers.  It is incredibly likely I'll be affected for the rest of my life.  For a year after my assault, if I heard anyone say his name I would flinch.

I've been lucky to be supported by friends, especially the ones I called the day after it happened.  But that doesn't mean it still doesn't hurt.  Or that it hasn't had a serious impact on my life, especially sexually.  But I'm trying to be the strong person I know I can be.  I know today I'll be helping others carry their weight.  But I also know we are unbreakable, no matter what society throws our way.

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