Trigger warning: This blog post talks about topics surrounding sexual assault and violence

This is something that I am incredibly passionate and verbal about. If any of you know my story, you know that this month holds a lot of weight for me and I feel responsible to advocate during the month of April for this topic. I don’t want to get into too much detail in this post - but if you have any questions or comments about this topic or my story, feel free to contact me personally and I would love to talk about it more with you.

I want this to be a space where all stories are welcomed. Where you know that you will be believed without question. You will not be asked to explain to tell more than you want to. You will not be given unsolicited advice or an over-spiritualized, stereotypical bible verse about how everything happens for a reason. You will be listened to.

One in three women and one in six men will experience some form of sexual violence in their life (NSVRC). Yet, the question I get asked often is how something is sexual violence if it wasn’t rape. We need to begin educating people from a young age that there are more forms of sexual assault and violence than just rape.
Your body is created to be respected for the beautiful creation that it is. There is no circumstance in which anyone has the right to violate the physical, emotional, and mental boundaries that another person has set.
We have created a culture which tolerates casual brushes, wandering hands, lingering touches. A culture that does not understand the concept of consent. That because she didn’t say “no”, they were completely fine with what was happening. That because it had happened before, it could happen again, whenever they wanted. That because their intentions weren’t malicious, it didn’t actually count as assault - they just weren’t thinking.

Sexual violence does not just happen in a dark alley with a stranger wearing a mask. It happens with romantic partners, family members, friends, roommates, strangers, one night stands, older, younger, all genders. Anyone can experience sexual violence. Anyone can commit sexual violence. Sexual violence is not just rape. It is anything relating to sexual acts that one or more parties have not consented to. There are endless situations in which this can happen.
There has been a misunderstanding surrounding the belief of survivors because consent has been so poorly taught.

We have taught women and girls that their bodies are dangerous. That they can’t be trusted. That their bodies are distractions. Be sexy without being a whore - but don’t be a prude. Flirt without leading anyone on - but don’t be stuck up. Be a damsel in distress - but don’t be too stupid or helpless. Be kind of strong - but not too strong to where you overpower men. Take what you can get, and don’t throw a fit. Please others. Stay silent. Say thank you. Don’t break the rules. Don’t speak up. Don’t achieve too much. Don’t achieve too little. Don’t argue.

Consent is a sober “yes”. It is explicitly asking if something is OK. It is paying attention to body language and making sure that the person does not feel uncomfortable. It is checking in. It is being able to stop at any time without repercussions.
You own your body. You get to be responsible for the actions that happen to and with your body. Anything that does not respect that individual autonomy is violence towards you.

We need to stand together and believe survivors. We need to stop with division and doubt and asking what they were wearing. When will our society and our lawmakers finally understand that it does not matter. Shoulders and knees are not distracting and dangerous, and even if they were - still no one was asking for it.

On top of that, if this has happened to you, I want you to know that you are so much more than this. That does not mean that you are not allowed to grieve and process - you get to have as much time, space, and support as you need. But rather, this does not define you. You are not broken, dirty, impure, worthless because of this. You worth has not changed. You are still worthy of healthy love. You are important. You are seen.
You have a safe space here. You have people who will believe you without question. You have people who will listen and advocate. You are a person, and that is ALL that matters.

xx Syd