What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to tell someone?
This past week on social media, people were encouraged to write “me too” if they had experienced sexual assault or harassment. This was an attempt to let the world know just how big of an issue sexual assault is.
I was one of those who posted “me too” however, my experiences have been minor in comparison with what too many of my friends have unfortunately experienced. It breaks my heart to tell you that I know many women who have been attacked, harassed, assaulted and some raped. By strangers, friends, colleagues and some by close family members.
I still vividly remember the morning one of my close friends told me what had happened to her. She had only told one other person and, although she knew me well, I could see the fear in her eyes as she drew the courage to tell me what had happened. I knew instantly I didn’t want to hear what she was about to say.
The night before, she had been walking through a park in the early evening on her journey home. It had only just gone dark and it was a popular city park. As she walked, reflecting happily on her day she had just spent with family, she was grabbed from behind and thrown to the ground. Her attacker moved quick and she tried to fight back until he raised a knife to her.
He slashed at her with the knife. Slicing through her mid-section down to her thigh. As the reality hit her of what was happening, she froze. Fearing what was about to happen next.
At this point, strangers walked by. The sound of their footsteps stopped him from going further. He bolted from the scene and police were quickly alerted. She was taken to the police station to give her statement.
She told me very little that morning. What had just happened was too raw for her to open-up completely. It has been nearly 5 months since this attack and she is still not ready to open-up completely about what happened that night. Put yourself in her shoes. Would you want to re-live that experience?
You see, she has to live with this experience for the rest of her life. She has a scar which is a permanent reminder of what happened to her. On top of this, she is battling through post-traumatic stress disorder. If you don’t know much about PTSD, I strongly urge you to look it up. When I realized this was what she was going through, that’s exactly what I did. I researched PTSD and how to help someone with it. Knowing more about PTSD helped me understand a little more about what she is going through.
We have talked many times since about what happened and I know she is doing her best to move forward. What tears me up is that I can’t do anything to take away what happened. I can’t undo the damage this person has done. And as much as I wish I could, I can’t find this person and give him the punishment he deserves.
What I can do, is help spread the word about sexual harassment and assault. With her approval, I can be her voice today and let you know that this is not okay. She, and all men & women, should be allowed to walk through a park safely. Without fear of being jumped. She did nothing to deserve this. This man and this man alone is responsible for his actions.
What can you do to help? You can share your story. You can speak up against sexual assault. Stop shaming people for sharing their stories. Telling their story is the most difficult thing for them. If they are trusting you with their story, let them talk. Listen to what they have to say and believe them.
Steph Reynolds is one of the strongest women I know. Thank you, Steph for letting me share your story. I am so proud of how far you’ve come this past year. You inspire me every day with your courage and determination to not let this get the better of you.
If you need help, support or would like to talk to someone about sexual assault, or anything mentioned above, you can seek help here.