There is a trigger warning for this post which references sexual assault. Please take care when reading.
“One day this date won’t mean anything. You won’t even remember it.” So said a friend of mine about the date that changed me forever. 10th May 2002. At the time I was dubious, and twenty years later I know for sure this is not true.
On 10 May 2002, a man broke into my house – well he came through the back sliding door which I had forgotten to lock – and sexually assaulted me. My daughter was just 3 and was there but was unharmed during the attack.
I used to call this a Slash in the Canvas because it was just so unlike everything else in my life. This Slash in the Canvas has taught me so much over two decades. How trauma lives in the body, and the body can help us heal. What the difference is between what I experienced – a single incident trauma – and complex trauma with significant adverse childhood experiences. I have learned over two decades that to have so few hiccups in life is a privilege marker. And that my family of origin did very well in how they insulated me from life’s harsher lessons. I understood trauma from the inside and this revealed to me many blind spots I didn’t know I had, and I think it has made me a better person.
I learned how hard it is to get real change – to move from the (politically popular) virtue signalling of White Ribbons to real change. Things like funding independent advocacy services, implementing therapeutic justice approaches and adequately and supporting a diverse workforce including peer supporters. I learned that Inquiries and Recommendations will not magically be implemented, even though we survivors turned up, spoke the truth even though our voices shook, were heard kindly by panel members. Even though I personally dedicated many hours to volunteering on a committee responsible for implementation, almost nothing was done from that Inquiry I was involved in.
This morning I awoke around the time it had happened, about 3-4am. In the quiet and peacefulness of the early morning I spoke about it to darling husband who at the time lived across the road. Twenty years ago he was only a date, not a husband. He couldn’t remember me calling him that terrible morning, telling him what happened. He couldn’t remember coming over straight away, and when the police arrived, being taken off for questioning.
I thought about it several times during the day. “At this time I would still have been in the police station.” “At this time I would just be getting to SARC (Sexual Assault Resource Centre) to do the forensic.” “At this time I would finally be getting to my parent’s house to see my beautiful little girl.”
I haven’t had an event to mark the ceremony for a while, but I always remember this date. Always.
Many years ago, I read this wonderful paragraph from Nancy Venable Raine’s book After Silence, Rape and My Journey Back which articulates why I still want to mark this date. I uncovered it well looking through old blogs, and I wanted to share it again today:
I began to write about the seventh anniversary of my rape and the six that came before it, and when I wasn’t sure how to end what I was writing, something happened. Flowers arrived from the flower shop at the foot of the hill; “Happy 7th. You are not alone. Love always, Kate”…
The flowers Kate sent that day had power. For the first time in seven years I had the sense of connection and community. I was celebrating my anniversary in the only way I knew how, and Kate was there. This anniversary, unlike all the others, was shared. I suddenly knew how to finish what I was writing – with an image of women, marching, openly and together, celebrating their anniversaries, speaking their names, carrying flowers.”Nancy Venable Raine, Rape and My Journey Back
Keeping silent does not move us forward. We need to talk about this stuff, together, and celebrate our survival, preferably with flowers. Maybe it’s time to build on #MeToo and #LetHerSpeak and include #LetHerCelebrate…
Happy two decade survivorversary to me.