It’s not your fault.

1911933_1468076500081727_1743708791_nKeeping myself busy with activities that contribute to my community in a positive way is a big part of my healing process and how I manage my PTSD, but sometimes I have a tendency to over-commit myself and end up a little stressed out as a result.

Celebrating opening night at Co-Motion Studio with my business partner Adriene Holland.
Celebrating opening night at Co-Motion Studio with my business partner Adriene Holland.

And lately I’ve been beyond busy with implementing Phase 1 of my Community Movement Center vision ~ opening my first small business Co-Motion Studio, a hoop-centric recreational movement studio in Crosstown, Memphis which opened on December 13, 2013.

In addition to that enormous and ongoing but immensely rewarding undertaking, I also helped organize this year’s One Billion Rising Memphis campaign in February 2014, which focused on seeking justice for local rape victims whose rape kits are included in the recently uncovered backlog of 12,000+ untested rape kits, the largest known backlog in the country.

Organizing this year’s week of events for the campaign was a much more emotionally challenging undertaking for me as a survivor because I never reported a crime, so for me there will never be any justice. Trying to process what “rising for justice” means to me, in the midst of organizing activities at the studio in support of the campaign and launching a new business all at the same time was more than a little draining, and appearing on the news to talk about my experience as a survivor organizing the campaign triggered a whole new level of PTSD responses to deal with, so I’ve been laying low lately and trying to focus on myself, growing my new business, getting taxes done, and preparing to return to Sacred Circularities in Bali next week, and recharging and processing the last few very busy months.

Over time and with a lot of therapy and experience at it, I’ve been able to listen to other survivors share their stories without it upsetting me more than normal, but lately it has been much harder for me, especially while I was organizing One Billion Rising this year and the following months while the rape kit backlog has continued to be a high profile local news topic. While each of our experiences is unique, so much of it is often the same tragic story again and again, especially when it comes to the way people inevitably respond when you first share your story – victim blaming.

According to the World Health Organization:

“Negative social reactions to rape (ex. victim blaming) are linked to higher instances of PTSD.”

2014 150The very first time I told someone I was raped, I was called a liar and a slut. My actions were questioned and I was not believed. As a result, I never told my parents, I never went to the police, and I never reported a crime. The second time I was raped I was met with the same response, so by the third time I didn’t bother telling anyone and just kept it to myself. Victim blaming is a major trigger for me, and for many other rape survivors with PTSD, and it’s one of the hardest aspects to overcome because it leaves such a deep and lasting psychological imprint of negative belief systems.

So when the victim blaming is coming from your elected officials like your mayor, it’s a little too much to bear. Pile on to that a county sheriff who is responsible for your public safety refusing to answer questions from rape victims seeking justice and a sorry/not sorry nonapology for victim blaming, and it’s just over the top. I’m sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say thanks Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton and Shelby County Sheriff Bill Odom for a weekend of nightmares and flashbacks.

A little accountability in this local travesty of justice would be nice, so let’s get this straight:

Victims of rapists:

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault.

2014 157Rapists, City of Memphis, Shelby County, and State of Tennessee administrations, Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, Shelby County District Attorney, and all other related government organizations entrusted with serving justice and ensuring public safety:

It’s your fault.

It’s time to take responsibility for your actions. Stop blaming victims, especially those bravely standing up and speaking out for all of us, seeking justice and accountability.

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