In light of the events in of this past week, two sexual assault cases in our St. John’s criminal justice system, we want to say unequivocally that no one, absolutely no one, is responsible for the abuse they experience.
We can often believe we are responsible for the abuse we suffer because of the constant messages blaming victims that we endure through all forms of media, advertising, friends and family, and because the people who abuse us often tell us that we are to blame. We internalize these harmful messages and then we don’t report, we find anyway to cope, we suffer alone, we harm ourselves, and often feel too ashamed or too tired to seek help and support.
Witnessing the events of the recent Snelgrove re-trial can be deeply upsetting for those of us who have experienced sexual violence. It can reinforce the message that the victim has done something wrong. Watching the justice system fail victims repeatedly can leave us hopeless, unsafe, and unsure where to turn when there is no accountability. These events can force us to re-live the abuse we have experienced, leaving us feeling vulnerable, anxious and angry.
All of these reactions we feel are valid, common and normal.
However, through all of this we can heal. We can move forward, we can change the harmful narratives that it was somehow ‘our fault’ with love and support, and find a place of safety to process. A safe place should look and feel like:
– A place where you can say NO freely and without consequences, including your counsellor, doctor, friend and partner.
– A place that challenges the myths around sexual violence and does not use victim blaming language.
– A place where you are believed, and all your feelings, including anger, are validated.
– A place where you can heal at your own pace and where you are the expert in the process.
– A place where you are so much more than the worst experiences you have survived.
We believe you. We support you.