A Victim Impact Statement Through Art, Music & Video
To say the past month has been rough would be a gross understatement. In a follow up to my recent post Crippling Horrible Depression where I discuss the emotional impact of my recent sexual assault, today I want to touch upon the artistic impact my sexual assaults have had. Yes, you read that correctly…assaults…as in, more than one time. In fact, I’ve been sexually violated in the criminal sense 6 times in the past 20 years and it does have somewhat of a cumulative effect especially considering that not once, despite filing police reports has it ever led to my assailants being brought up on charges. The disgusting reality is that each and every time, my integrity has come into question and I’ve been subject to victim blaming and dismissive attitudes by law enforcement and legal professionals.
In many ways being the victim of sex crimes and a failing justice system has shaped me into the type of artist that I am today. I don’t paint pretty pictures or write songs about sunny days. Not that there’s anything wrong with that kind of art, but if I am going to have these shitty things happen to me I at least want it to count for something. I want to draw attention through my art to social injustices. I want to empower victims to take a stand and speak up. I want young women to know that it is not their fault and it IS a big deal that someone has violated their sexual autonomy. I want comfort my fellow victims and let them know that they are not alone in their pain. I want to call out the powers that be in their failure to protect the public because they’re too concerned with protecting their own interests.
|In the music video We’re All Whore I call out the corrupt justice system that has failed me as a victim of sexual assault time and time again.|
|A judge is transformed into a twisted version of Lady Justice to show that even the noblest of institution can be corrupted by money and power.|
I want to educate the public about sexual assault and it’s impacts on society as a whole. What most people picture when you say “sexual assault” is a woman walking alone in a dark place and all of a sudden a man with a weapon jumps out, forces her to the ground, threatens her and rapes her causing massive bodily trauma in the process. While this is a type of sexual assault specifically called aggravated rape it is hardly the most common form of sexual assault. Most sexual assaults involve someone who is already known to the victim. Most sexual assaults involve coercion and manipulation of the victim.
Not all sexual assaults are rape, but ALL sexual assaults involve a lack of consent. Of the six incidents of sexual assault happened to me 3 involved non consentual vaginal penetration but only 2 would be considered rape. Of the two times I was raped both times it was by someone I was well acquainted with. In fact one of my assailants was a domestic partner. Only 2 out of the six times I was assaulted, it was by a stranger. 3 out of the 6 times it happened was in a workplace situation. One time it was within the medical profession while I was seeking treatment for my fibromyalgia.
Each time it’s happened it takes a bit to process what just happened to me. My initial reaction is that of shock, then I feel like throwing up, then I feel fear, then anger, then confusion, then disbelief until I run through the incident in my head again and realize that yes, that really did happen to me again. Then I have to decide what I’m going to do about it. Do I let it go,or do I confront my assailant, or do I report it? 4 out of the six times I reported what happened to me and 4 out of 4 times nothing happened as far as legal consequences of any kind for my assailants. Disappointed doesn’t even begin to explain the tornado of emotion that has raged in me each an every time I have experienced this injustice.
|In the Hedonist music video I use surgery as a visual metaphor for sexual assault|
|A victim lays helpless on the operating table while the assailant cuts into her violating her physical autonomy.|
What makes the experience of being sexually assaulted and not having acknowledged and legitimzed through the criminal justice system even more infuriating is knowing that something like this has happened to every woman I know! I know the official North American statistic is that 1 in 4 women experience sexual assault, but it’s gotta be higher. Either way, it’s a serious social problem and it has to change! Too many of us victims don’t tell anyone that it happened. Too many of us just sweep it under the rug and try to just “get on” with our lives. Too many of us feel guilt, shame and blame ourselves for what happened. Too many of us don’t report it to the proper authorities or if we do, it’s been such a long time that all the evidence has disappeared. Too many of us think that because we weren’t “raped” that we have less of a right to feel violated.
I want to encourage other victims to talk about it, report it and even if they don’t see any justice through our broken legal system to write a victim impact statement as they would do if their case actually went to court. I write my victim impact statements through my art and music. It’s how I work through it. My painting, song and music video Hedonist is my victim impact statement. Through words and images I acknowledge what happened and it’s profound effect on every aspect of my life and the people closest to me. Writing a victim impact statement doesn’t have to be a work of art, but trust me that getting it out has been therapeutic and healing. I encourage everyone to write one no matter how long ago it happened and no matter what the legal outcome was.
Sexual assault and it’s aftermath has a snowball affect on it’s victims. It leads to mental health issues, which can lead to self destructive behaviour like eating disorders, self harm and substance abuse. Addiction is a massive social problem and studies of female addicts have shown that almost 100% have suffered sexual abuse. The mental health issues experienced by sexual assault victims can impede their ability to earn a living and be productive members of society. So, it’s not just the victims(at least 25% of women) who suffer, but society as a whole.
|The imagery in the music video Hedonist is designed to show the complexity of the relationship between sexual abuse, mental illness and addiction.|
The bottom line is that if you are a victim of ANY form of sexual assault I encourage you to make as much noise about it as possible. Report it to the police. Write a victim impact statement even if it doesn’t go to court. If you feel you justice wasn’t served or you weren’t taken seriously, go to the media. Talk to a lawyer to see what your legal options are. Fight back! Tell someone you trust. Hell! Email me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll listen to you, even if no one else does.
If someone close to you was sexually assaulted encourage them to do all of the above and hold their hand through it all so that they know they’re not alone.