Amplifying the Voices of Victims: Seeking Justice for ALL during Sexual Assault Awareness Month
By Ateret Goldman
CW: rape, animal abuse
“Why didn’t you just tell him to stop? It seems like you must have led him on.” He demanded my answer. My heart was racing. I didn’t know what to respond. Feeling like whatever I said would be the wrong thing, I had no words to share. The lamplight reflected off of his badge, giving it an eery glow and emphasizing the ‘289’ engraved upon its face.
I was staring too long, so he repeated, “Did you even tell him to stop?!” This wasn’t what I wanted. This is what my family had decided would be “the best thing for me.” They said I “needed justice.” With every question, I shut further and further down. With every question, I lost more and more control. I never wanted to be the “one in six,” but rapists don’t give you a choice.
This wasn’t the detective’s intention. He was just doing his job. “I know this isn’t easy for you, but I need you to answer me,” he said, as my eyes flooded over. Tears started rolling down my cheeks but he just chided, “I am here to help you. If you won’t help me help you then I don’t have to be here.” He reached across the table, patting my shoulder. I cringed and it suddenly became harder to breathe. I remembered the last time a man had touched me, the entire reason we were here.
He had slipped his hand down my skirt. The smell of alcohol drifted from his mouth and overwhelmed my senses. All I could see was the scraggly hairs on the bottom of his chin. I heard the muffled sound of birds chirping nearby, but their voices were disrupted by his raspy British voice. In the back of my neck I felt a twig, as he continued to push me to the ground. I didn’t understand what was happening. Every cell in my body tensed and I knew that this wasn’t okay. I didn’t have a way out, so I begged “stop.”
At this moment, just like last time, I felt powerless, like an object made to be used for one purpose or another. I had no choice in the matter; I had no vote. My bodily autonomy was stolen away from me. Both my predator and the folks who were “trying to help” poked and prodded, used my flesh and ignored me. No one cared about what I was going through. I was told that I should “demand justice.” There was no support- just questions about whose fault it was, and, I guess, they had decided it was mine.
This happens to so many. When we talk about sexual assault, it’s as if it is a distant phenomenon, an issue in another land. But it occurs every day. I am only one of the millions of survivors. I am told that having this label makes me stronger, that this experience has made me who I am today. “Survivor” is the medal that I get to take away from this for “being a good sport!” but I am not a child anymore, despite what the law might say. Branding me with a word and expecting me to be proud does not restore my faith in humanity. It does not help me fall asleep at night.
I am a survivor of sexual assault. This was not something I wanted. This is not the path I chose, but I will not let this silence me. I have been told for far too long that I am weak, but I will no longer let others dictate my beliefs. We live in a “rape culture,” and we must speak out for its victims- human and non-human alike.
The “dairy” industry profits off of humans sticking their hands inside of female cows to artificially inseminate them. Goats, pigs, and horses are treated no better. All animals suffer and feel fear, just like we do. Bodily autonomy is not a privilege; it is a right that every sentient being deserves.
We live in a world where I was blamed for my own sexual assault at the age of 13. I refuse to accept this as the norm, to be complicit while survivors are silenced and the vulnerable are exploited. During this month for sexual assault awareness, I will stand up for them, no matter their species. Join me.
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