There are 23 of us in the room, excluding the facilitator.
23 survivors of rape and sexual assault.
23 people who have had their trust broken and their bodies violated.
23 people. In one. Small. Room.
Even the air is heavy in our lungs.
Only the two who have been through this process many times before can stand to look each other directly in the eye. When the others lift their gaze and find another’s eyes upon them, they blanch, and look at their hands – their feet – the table – the walls – anything but another human being.
23 people. 22 women. And me…
I am the only man in the room, and like these 22 women, I am a sexual assault survivor. A rape survivor. I am also acutely aware that statistically, most of these women were violated by men.
I feel like I am intruding in their safe space.
I feel that many of them may feel threatened by my presence. Because a man did this to them. For most of them, a man that they knew. A man that they trusted and loved.
A man that I trusted and loved raped me, along with a stranger – his friend. That is why I am in this room – not intruding, but sharing their safe space. Because two men violated my trust and my body.
In that violation, I am no different to these 22 young women. We are all survivors. Our gender does not differentiate us from the damage and the wounds.
23 people sat around a table with one common bond – that we have chosen to not be silenced any longer. We are here because tomorrow morning, Friday 1 August 2014, we will put on bright purple shirts with big, bold white letters, labelling ourselves as either SURVIVOR of sexual abuse or RAPE SURVIVOR; we will walk proudly – courageously – unashamedly – and lead 1700 friends, supporters and fellow survivors through the streets of Grahamstown in protest of the continuing sexual assault on South African citizens: women; girls; boys; men.
My name is Dave.
I am a rape survivor.
© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.