By Monique van Vuuren
The first time I disclosed anything about being raped was last year, six years after it happened. First I wrote about it, very explicitly, and the first person I showed it to was my mother. It was difficult but writing about it made a way for me to feel comfortable enough to talk about it.
Last year I self-published a book titled Secrets, dark suffocating shadows: A memoir for liberation but even though the book was published, I had not dealt with my biggest secret.
Personally, I wanted to reclaim power over the devastating effects that life-changing event caused in my life.
When I did not speak out, I took power away from myself and my silence protected the man who disrespected my bodily integrity. I know that many rape survivors do not report rape and that many cases do not result in a conviction. Those whom the legal system has failed should speak out about the flaws in this system so that it can improve and we can finally see a difference in the scary statistics.
My secret silenced me, my agency and my choices. It was deeply entrenched in the very fibers of my being and was internalised in all the social codes that I lived by. Secrets and silence are suffocating and they left me depressed and disempowered. This is what inspired me to write. Through writing I hope to create a platform that encourages the sharing of difficulties and speaking out in others.
“In a world where language and naming are power, silence is oppression, is violence.” ― Adrienne Rich
This year, seven years after the event occurred, I have sought counselling at Rape Crisis. It has provided me with tools to transcend identifying myself only as a victim. I think that counselling is really about exposing myself to myself. It allows me to stay true to myself. Holding in pent up emotion is not healthy for me. Experiencing a trauma reminded me that I am not a machine; I may be hard and tough on the exterior, but I am an emotional being and soft on the inside. For some people there is still a stigma around counselling and many people don’t seek out this kind of support. But for me, counselling has allowed me to put back together the puzzle pieces that have been scattered about in my life for a long time.
What would you like to see as a result of the Don’t Hide, Speak Out campaign?
This campaign aims to empower rape survivors and puts a face to the statistics we so often ignore. I hope that this campaign will help to ignite activism around the issue of rape and encourage those who have experienced it to speak out and take the first steps toward healing. To me, my picture represents transcending my victimhood.
“A word after a word after a word is power.” ― Margaret Atwood
Find out more about Monique’s book Secrets: Dark suffocating shadows. A memoir for liberation on facebook.