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May 21, 2018 | by  | in Editorial |
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Editor’s Letter

CW: sexual assault.
When I was 19 years old, walking down an unfamiliar street in Thailand, my mother told me she had been raped by her father. We’d been arguing that night. She was telling me that she had a “big secret” that would explain things, that she’d tell me once I was older and “ready for it”. “I’m 19,” I said. “An adult. I’ll never be more ready.” She’d only told a few people in her life. My dad, a couple from her church, and now, me and my sister.

Such a formative event in my mother’s life, she kept secret for most of it because of the shame and social stigma surrounding the topic. It’s funny how sometimes we don’t talk about the big things — they sit in the gaps of our conversations.

Sometimes I feel like I can attribute so many of my childhood events to her past — the fact that we only ever had female pets, because male animals were “more vicious”, her social insecurity, her need for control, her hysteria when one of her male friends wrote me a love letter when I was 15. But it’s hard to tell. The event-emotion-thought-action chain is something that can only ever be guessed at.

I just think it’s weird that when I was a kid I didn’t realise how pervasive sexual violence is. I thought men and women were “pretty much equal” because 10% didn’t sound like a big pay gap. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I didn’t know because no one talked about it. And it turns out that it was a big part of my life all along, but so enmeshed that I couldn’t see it.

I think it’s awesome that and super brave of the VUWSA exec and Kii to share their stories. They’re risking a lot. They might not be believed, they might be belittled, their exes might get angry or violent. What we all stand to gain from these stories being told is wider social understanding of how pervasive sexual violence is. Most of the women in VUWSA had a story to share. I strongly suspect that most of the women you encounter in your life will have stories of their own. The more we talk about it, the more we can understand it. The more we understand it, the more we can change it.

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