Sexual Violence is Everywhere, But We Can Transform the World Through Resilience, Advocacy, Passion (and Tattoos)
by KiloMarie Granda
Editor's Note: This TIR Tat Tale is part of a series of articles Transformation is Real is running during March and April to bring awareness to sexual violence that unfortunately is still so prevalent in the world, and what different people are doing to effect change. TRIGGER WARNING: This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
One person for every 30-40 people in the United States will commit an act of personal power-based violence against another person or group of individuals. That's one in thirty to forty people.
Why is there so much violence?
Why does a rape occur every 1-2 minutes? Or a murder every minute? Why do those few individuals that commit violence have so much power against those that do not? Simply put, it is because people do not, for a myriad of reasons, choose to step up and step in to prevent it.
We are herd animals—like sheep, we tend to follow the movements of our herd. If we see a violent act happening and yet no one around us is trying to prevent it or help, we will often follow the example of others, whether bad or good. Peer influence, various bystander dynamics (including evaluation apprehension, diffusion of responsibility, and pluralistic ignorance), in addition to our own personal obstacles or biases can prevent us from acting when we see something bad going on, or about to take place. This herd instinct can also prevent us from helping others when we see a person hurt and in need of assistance.
I formerly served as the Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator and Green Dot Trainer and Facilitator for the University of Minnesota. Within this position I had the opportunity to work as an advocate and educator. I understood how to be an advocate, an educator, and a change-maker.
It was also while serving in this position that I was raped by a close friend and colleague. The following several months were nothing short of horrific for me.
My family and I were subjected to scrutiny, ridicule, and constant humiliation. I became so afraid of leaving the home that I became a prisoner of my own fear and anxiety and refused to leave my house for months. I also developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I began reliving it in my daily life. I couldn’t leave my home, I couldn’t leave my partner or my daughter’s side. I couldn’t even work (a hardship, for sure—especially being in the field that I had been in).
I was humiliated. I was terrified. I lived every day on edge, thinking any day could be my last and sometimes wishing that very day would be my last. I believe it was the darkest time in my life. A time during which I really didn’t see much of a light. It was there; it was just difficult for me to see.
After months of investigation, the case was dropped two days before trial as a result of a technicality due to an "incomplete chain of evidence." I did not see justice. Instead, I had to learn to live with the fact that the individual that assaulted me was free to do so again. It has been over three years since this happened. However, I still deal with the mental and physical trauma.
You might think that the story ends here . . . but it does not.
Silent No More
It is because of my own story (and also others sharing their stories with me, regardless of gender—boys are victimized as well) that I chose to dive even more deeply into the field of advocacy. I founded a non-profit organization, Unspoken Voices. I dedicated my life to violence prevention and intervention.
I was a victim for far too long. No more.
Although the path from victim to survivor was difficult, I learned not simply how to survive, but to thrive despite what happened to me. My difficult journey has been worth it—I hope to help others walk this same path of healing and empowerment. If I am able to help even one single person, then it gives meaning and a purpose to the work I do now, as well as an life-giving response to the violence I went through.
My tattoos remind me daily of the strength that was embodied in the immortal words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King:
I choose NOT to be silent. I choose to stand with those in pain and with those in turmoil. I choose to stand with those who—through no fault of their own—have lost their voice. I choose to speak for justice. With certainty I know that my voice, together in chorus with the voices of those like me, sings loudly, truthfully, and with strength enough to work to create a world where fear and power don't rule the day.
KiloMarie Granda is the Founder and Executive Director of Unspoken Voices, a Morris, Minnesota based non-profit organization dedicated to "give a voice to those who have lost the strength, will, or ability to speak out."
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/unspokenvoicesorganization