It’s More Than a Pretty Ribbon

by Jennifer Brierly

Are you aware that gastroparesis awareness month is in August.

What about National Pediculosis prevention month? Do you know when that is? What that is? (Lice and September.)

Many of us are vaguely aware of some of the more well publicized awareness months. We might have ribbon magnets on our cars or pinned to coats.

Sexual assault awareness month falls in April. Every April. Unless, of course, you’re a sexual assault survivor. Then you are aware of that fact, acutely, every day. And without adornment.

If you are a survivor, you likely know some of the statistics. Numbers the rest of the country will tut and gasp over for a couple weeks are already etched on the inside of your eyelids so that even sleep can’t make the facts disappear.

-1 out of every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

– every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted

– 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male

– 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide

-less than 1% of rapes lead to felony convictions

In most cases, the victim knows her attacker.

In most cases, she is assaulted near or even inside of, her home.

In this era of #Metoo, rape is no longer the untouchable, unbroachable, unspeakable cousin to sexual harassment.

We’re aware. Enlightened.


And we believe women.

Isn’t that what we purport?

FBI crime statistics indicate that only 2% of reported rapes are false. This is the same rate of false reporting for other major crimes.

So, with all this “wokeness”, we would expect that comments like “If she’s telling the truth, why did she stay silent for so long?” or “She wouldn’t keep that baby if it was really rape” would be unheard of.

Yet hear them, we do.

We pretend we don’t.

We pretend that skepticism doesn’t spread like dandelion seeds in the wind. That doubt, hearty and resilient, doesn’t settle into every crack and tear in our carefully constructed facade of confidence, burrow into our skin and germinate. That self loathing isn’t a continual insidious threat.

We try not to question what we were wearing, how hard we fought, or the devastating consequences of our silence.

We say we believe that we bear no responsibility. We will tell you that we aren’t ashamed as our eyes drift over your shoulder and then affix to a place just above your head. Of course we know it isn’t our fault.

We exchange stories among ourselves, all too often mumbling an introduction of “What happened to me wasn’t as bad as what happened to you…” just to give ourselves permission to speak.

A wool cocoon coat with one of those oversized cowl hoods. An infinity scarf that hid my face from an unusually biting January wind. A skirt that was so long it hid the ribbon detailing on the top of my boots.

That’s what I was wearing.

It was around 8 in the morning.

My own versions of “But what if I” and “Maybe I could have” lie dormant 11 months of the year.

But they blossom in April.

And maybe? That isn’t such a bad thing. It puts the demon front and center. Forces us to face our collective biases and ignorance. Discomfort and disillusion.

The stories shared surrounding Sexual Assault Awareness month are horrible to listen to.

Listen anyway.

They are devastating to accept.

Accept them anyway.

It’s impossible to fight an enemy we can’t or won’t see.

It’s impossible to heal from a wound we haven’t treated.

What better time than this month of Awareness to ask ourselves what we’re really aware OF?

And what we have yet to face.

Wishing all my fellow survivors a life far beyond simply surviving.

Keep still being here – JB

A note from the author can be found here:

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