Updated: Apr 23, 2020
I am currently reading Believe Me by Jessica Valentini and Jaclyn Friedman, which features a number of essays from activists who all strive to revolutionize our systems of justice. Each essay, so far, highlights issues regarding sexual assault, domestic violence and ways to refine justice for sexual assault victims/survivors and their assailants. I am a little over halfway through this book and, being a survivor of both sexual assault and domestic violence, I am inspired to share my thoughts on justice and what it means to me.
I was introduced to sexual abuse at the age of eight when punishments from my mother's significant other (at the time) started requiring me to remove all of my clothes before being whipped by a leather belt. After being whipped, he would tell me to sit and watch television with him. It was during these moments that he would hold me close and tell me that he loved me while running his hands across my flat chest and/or massaging my vagina with his fingers. Sometimes, he would ask me to sit on his lap and I would feel his erection.
I was both confused and afraid. I said nothing about this reoccurrence to anyone for years. I wanted to speak up. I remember almost doing so during their wedding ceremony. I was ten and my baby brother was born just the month before. I had thought that having another body in the house while my mother was away would put an end to the molestations. It didn't change anything other than my responsibilities of now being a big sister. When asked if anyone objected to the marriage, a huge lump formed in my throat, but I couldn't seem to open my mouth, let alone move my lips. It was a dreadful day and I was frozen in fear.
I was twelve when I finally built up enough courage to say something to my mother. In my assailant's defense, he called me a liar. It was my word against his and I felt less credible as everyone (those who knew) seemed to sweep my voicing a reoccurring traumatic experience under the rug as if none of it ever happened. No further action was taken and just like that, it was done and over. My mother remained married to my assailant and even more horrifying, she still entrusted him to continue to be at home with me when she was away. Despite the awkwardness of being alone with a man who molested me for years, it was at least a relief that he no longer touched me. Overall, I was disappointed in the result of no one bothering to press charges against my assailant, let alone making a report. The state of my physical or emotional well-being was not addressed. There was no justice and I felt powerless.