According to RAINN.com, an American is assaulted every 73 seconds. This statistic is staggering and shows there is still work to be done. With this statistic in mind, we note that April marks the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As the month begins, Lindsay Ell has penned an open letter about her personal experience and how she overcame her assaults to survive and thrive. Read her letter below and find out how you can help other victims of sexual assault not only through April, but year round.
Apathy (ap·a·thy | ˈa-pə-thē) : lack of feeling or emotion – as defined by Merriam-Webster. I believe it is one of the most dangerous and insidious human conditions, yet it seems widely accepted and seldom discussed. The thing about apathy is that you can get to a place where you don’t necessarily feel sad or angry – you feel nothing. You lose all motivation and it can affect every aspect of your life. The things you once loved no longer excite you.
I was raped when I was 13, and it took me seven years to tell my parents. Shortly thereafter, it happened again when I was 21. I didn’t know where to start in terms of unpacking any of the emotions I was feeling, let alone to seek therapy to heal. So, I just stopped feeling. I was apathetic to everything. I got really good with the canned response of “I’m fine.” You know the one. We’ve all heard it said when it isn’t true.
As a young girl growing up a sexual assault survivor, I inhabited this space most of my adolescent life. It is an enormous burden to not know how to deal with something like sexual assault, particularly at that age. As a victim, oftentimes I would get caught up in the worlds of shame, self-blame and guilt. Eventually, after years of work with therapists I was able to start to see myself as a survivor. I learned that it’s not what happens to us, but what we choose to do as a result that defines who we are. Music was always my one escape.
A huge part of the reason I decided to write the song “make you” for my sophomore album, heart theory, was to share what I’d learned. One of my favorite lyrics in the song is “the things that bend, and stain, and break you, that’s what’s gonna make you.” It serves not only as a lesson to others who might be suffering from trauma, but also a reminder to myself for what I have been able to overcome. But just as we can all take on a ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’ kind of sentiment, that is only possible once you’ve overcome the fear of even admitting something happened to you. Finding that awareness as a sexual assault survivor was honestly half the battle for me. That was when the fog of my apathy began to clear.
Suppressing our emotions is almost something that is rewarded in our society, especially for women, unfortunately. We are expected to be a ‘good girl’ who never speaks up when there is a problem. But I am not that girl anymore. And I will no longer be silent on this issue. It is why I felt so led to write “make you,” to launch the Make You Movement, and to work alongside organizations like RAINN and Youth For Tomorrow to raise awareness for this epidemic. I want to aid victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse by first and foremost letting other survivors know that I stand with them.
When we can stand together, we can do great things. To any survivors out there looking for support, please know that you’re not alone. Know that your feelings are valid. Know that the next step of healing is on the other side of that next conversation. My hope is that you are able to take that next step toward healing.
So please join me in celebrating Sexual Assault Awareness Month by lending your voice to the fight. This is no time for apathy.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.