As survivors of sexual assault, we’ve all had something taken from us. For some, it was our virginity; for others, it was our pride, our sense of safety or our sexuality. But for every single one of us, it was our lives. From that point on, we could never be the same again. There was no going back. We were forever changed.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in six women and one in 33 men will be sexually assaulted during the course of their lifetime. Yet we are left feeling alone and voiceless. But you are not alone. You are not the only one wondering if you will ever be okay. You are not the only one that trails your mind elsewhere when you find yourself in a room discussing rape culture. You are not the only one that burns with shame when you reflect on your hidden past.

In feminist studies classrooms covering sexual violence, they teach that sexual violence is about power. They are the oppressors and we survivors are the oppressed. We are even oppressed by our own society. We are made to fear that we will be blamed for what happened to us —  many of us even question if we indeed are to blame. We are told sexual violence is a personal issue and that our experiences with it should only be shared to those we are close to. We are silenced.

A survivor who was assaulted in the military came forward to me once and said, “Three out of five women in the military get raped … I’m just a number.” My response was not just to reassure her that she is more than just a number. No. My simple response was, “Yes, but there is so much power in numbers.” Sexual violence is about power —  something was taken from us against our will leaving us feeling that we have lost control over our own lives, that we have no authority over our own bodies.
Survivors, we must take the power back. We are women, men, transgender, gender queer, straight, gay, bisexual, transsexual, white, black, Latino, Asian, republican, democrat, rich, poor and everything in between. But despite our differences, we are united under one identity: We are survivors. It is time we set aside our differences and come together under what unites us. Together, we have the power. Together, we can take the power back. Together, we can break the silence we face as survivors. Together, we can end sexual violence. But we can’t do it alone. We have a voice, and that voice must be heard.

Emily Potter is taking back her power and she wants everyone else to start doing so today.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, May 15, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
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