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Calling out an abuser or rapist can be one of the most terrifying experiences in someone’s life. With rape culture, victim blaming and slut/sex shaming at an all-time high, you can only imagine the pressure placed on trauma survivors.

This is for those of us who are invisible, for those of us who are silent; we exist.

To speak up, and take the risk of being silenced, spoken over, victim blamed or putting your physical and mental health/safety on the line can seem daunting for anyone, to say the least. Risk it all, or stay silent? That’s one of the biggest, most terrifying questions to answer for a trauma survivor of any kind. They say you have to fight, you have to speak up so this same trauma isn’t shared with anyone else. They tell us we have to have courage, but why – after all this trauma that’s been inflicted – is all this responsibility being thwarted on us? As if processing and coming to terms with our trauma isn’t hard enough. Folks tend to think of others before they witness and hear us and our pain, or check in with us to help better meet our needs in our time of vulnerability.

Related: Resource Guide for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Abuse

Those of us who can’t come forward, we bite our tongues until the necrosis sets in. We bite until our tongues fall off; we are silenced. For some of us, we fear deterioration of our mental health, we fear our communities will turn their backs on us. We fear our abusers will retaliate, we’ll be blamed, shamed, etc. When folks have the privilege to be able to speak up, we’re left behind, dealing with our trauma in isolation.

But you know what they don’t see? They don’t see that we have courage too. We have courage because we are still here, even on the days where we’re hanging by a thread. (And even those who didn’t make it, they still had courage too.) We have courage because we put one foot in front of the other, we continue to try our best every day; we go out and face a world that tells us we aren’t valid. We have courage, even on the days when we can’t see it. We’re making it one day at a time, despite our mental illnesses or any after effects of the trauma we’ve endured.

Reader, there is validity in your trauma, even if you don’t feel safe to speak up. Your survivor-ship is real. Your trauma isn’t your fault, and it never will be. Any feelings you may have about your trauma or your abuser are valid and reasonable; no one is allowed to tell you how to feel about your experience(s).  No one has the right to invalidate your pain, feelings, your mental illnesses, and especially not your courage!

Our narratives are different, how we move through life is unique to each of us. The way we experience trauma is different for everyone. Just because your narrative looks different from someone else, it doesn’t negate your courage. I’ve spoken up against some of my abusers, some of them I haven’t. You are not any less courageous than someone who has spoken out. We have the same amount of courage, our courage just looks different — and that’s perfectly okay.

You shouldn’t be burdened by your community, or authorities with the guilt of your abuser possibly inflicting trauma on someone else. You are not responsible for another person’s actions; ever. You have the autonomy to keep your experiences to yourself, no one can take that away from you. No one’s allowed to tell you what trauma does and doesn’t look like for you. You deserve the same validation and empowerment as those survivors who have spoken out. You have full control over your narrative, even during times where it feels like you don’t, when you feel like everything is out of control. You deserve love, safety, and access to resources that can help you through your process; like therapy, support groups, etc. You deserve to have your boundaries respected, you deserve ample amount of time, and personal space, to feel your emotions and begin healing from this. You deserve to heal from your trauma!

Navigating accountability processes (personally or through the legal system) can be extremely difficult and triggering at times. We all have to do this in our own time, and that’s perfectly fine. Move at your own pace, there shouldn’t be any rush. And if you feel unsafe or weary about calling out your abuser(s), that’s completely valid. You deserve to have control over what to do with your experiences and trauma. If speaking up doesn’t sound like the right thing for you, you shouldn’t be pressured into doing so. You deserve to heal from this, you deserve to grow, and to reclaim your life and make it yours again. Your narrative is yours. Your courage will never go away. You are a strong, courageous being. Please, reader, don’t ever forget that!


Featured Image: via Arwen Abenstern – KWP via Creative Commons

Nik Moreno is a 22-year-old, Chicano, disabled, Queer, Nonbinary-Guy hailing from south Texas, but currently living in northeast Pennsylvania. He’s been an activist and community organizer since 2011. He’s very passionate about intersectional feminism, activism and advocacy against ableism and sanism (for folks with disabilities and mental illnesses), and writing zines and articles to continue to educate about institutional power structures. Eventually he plans to go to College as a Cosmetology major and continue to write, advocate, and educate to shatter the white supremacist, cis/hetero patriarchy!

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