A friend forwarded me a newspaper article about a documentary titled Brave Miss World. It tells the story of how Linor Abgaili who was Miss Israel was violently raped at age 18, six weeks before she was crowned Miss World 1998, refused to be silent and spoke out against her attacker until he was jailed for 16 years. The documentary along with an international tour is her crusade against sexual violence. I applaud her efforts because as she rightly stated: “If you go through something very bad or very hard, the only pill you can take is to tell, to take it out of your system. Because if you don’t, it is like a tumour “it becomes bigger and bigger until it kills you”. The reality is that the majority of women and men that have experienced sexual violence particularly in their childhood don’t speak out because there is such a stigma attached to it; they keep quiet and spend their lives, slowly dying, traumatized and consequently so do those close to them. No one is ever traumatized in isolation.
On my recent visit to New York city I attended a support group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) though I consider myself healed from it but because I was curious to find out what it would have been like to have a community of fellow survivors to openly talk with it. At the meeting, the attendees ranged in colors, gender and age, the oldest in their 60s. As I listened to their stories on how the abused had impacted and still impact their lives, I thought what a tragedy it was to spend 50+ years not fully living due to serious side effects (you can find out more about the effects here) of a crime committed against them during childhood. I’ve been privileged to have healed in my 30s after over two decades of living a traumatized life, while so many never recover. I was reminded how vital it is that I (and others) speak out against all forms of sexual abuse, no one should spend their life traumatized and in shame. Further, I believe the more we speak out the less power we give to perpetrators. Writing my book I Woke Up In China (click to find out more)was my way of speaking out.
Of course not everybody will get the need to speak out. I’ve had people, question why would I reveal so much details of my personal life as if I should be ashamed. Well, I’m not ashamed, I did nothing wrong. What is wrong is how we as a society have stigmatize victims of sexual violence and abuse that they choose to remain silent, giving this far too common crime power to germinate. According to a 2013 Save The Children report, the UN estimates that up to 50% of sexual assaults worldwide are committed against girls aged under 16. “One of the few global studies of the sexual abuse of children across a number of countries– mostly rich countries – found that 21.2% of females and 10.7% of males were victims of sexual abuse between the ages of zero to 18; this means an average of nearly 16% of all children.” The WHO reports that recent global prevalence figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. It is important to note that these figures are most likely an underestimate as most survivors don’t report the crime. Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate study titled Without Consent: estimates that 75–95% of rapes are never reported to the police in England.