To speak out, to speak up is a very powerful act. To speak the truth. To say what no one wants to hear. To disclose a crime or an abuse of power. To give a voice to trauma. To tell that which you were forbidden from telling.
For too long women have been told to stay quiet. Told that to speak up is to speak out of turn. That to speak and be heard is not their right, not their role. For too long, women have been made to believe that their worth lies in their appearance and not their actions. Told to wait their turn, they have discovered only too late that their turn would never come.
There are so many disincentives to speaking out as a woman. Ridicule, humiliation, disbelief, aggression, rejection, silencing… The price women have paid for speaking up, for speaking their truth, for speaking out of turn – the price women still often pay for exercising their voices – has been far too high.
It’s time this changed. It’s time women’s voices were heard. It’s time women’s voices were respected and valued. It’s time no woman felt too frightened to speak up or too intimidated to risk being heard.
The Eastern Media Advocacy Project – a joint initiative of Women’s Health East together with Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault (ECASA), Eastern Domestic Violence Service (EDVOS) and the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service (WDVCS) – sets about achieving precisely this change. It’s why I jumped at the chance to be a part of it.
As a survivor of sexual assault I know only too intimately what it is like to have your voice silenced, only too profoundly the risks involved in speaking up. By providing survivors of sexual assault with the opportunity to become media advocates, the Eastern Media Advocacy Project boldly undoes the silencing our attackers forced upon us. By training us as media advocates, the Eastern Media Advocacy Project insists upon our right to be heard, our right to speak up.
What’s more, the Eastern Media Advocacy Project calls upon the wider community to hear our voices, even though much of what we have to say is confronting. Talking about sexual assault in any context, at any time, to any audience is hard to do. And yet, if we, as a society, as a community, are to confront this crime, are to stop it from happening, then talking about sexual assault is something we all need to learn to do. Only by acknowledging that sexual assault is a common and frequent crime, by recognising the devastating impacts it has upon victims, their families and our community and by being aware that there are things we can all do to prevent sexual assault, will things begin to change.
Hearing the stories of victim/survivors, hearing our testimony in our own words, on our own terms, providing us with an opportunity to speak the truth, remains an act of defiance, and a necessary one. Slowly, as a society we are beginning to realise how important this is – hopefully the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse will provide precisely that opportunity to victims to speak and, for the rest of us, to hear their testimony. The Eastern Media Advocacy Project has been formally providing that opportunity for over a year now. It is the testimony of victim/survivors that will provide the key to finding our way out of the morass of sexual violence that we have been caught in for too long.
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