Breaking the silence and the cycle

By The Beacon | April 27, 2015 1:14pm
Carolyn Munro

Editor’s Note: Beacon editors took great time and care deliberating whether to publish this submission. We realize that the subject matter in this piece could be a trigger for survivors of incest and other forms of sexual abuse, and we never want to inflict harm on our readers. That said, we also believe open, responsible discussion of important, sensitive topics can be a powerful healing agent, that survivors can find strength in breaking their silence, and their stories can give comfort and strength to those with similar experiences. If this submission does trigger painful emotions, you can contact the Health Center at 503-943-7134 or Campus Ministry at 503-943-7131.

Guest Commentary by Carolyn Munro |

I’ve been sexually assaulted. Four of my friends at University of Portland have been raped. And their stories go along the same lines: It was at a party, both people were drinking, it was someone the victim knew, they said no and he kept going.

I’m never told the perpetrators’ names, and my friends never prosecuted. Several years after the assault, my friends are still attending counseling. They won’t let anyone close to their hearts, and they feel scared for their lives.

I cannot express the pain that I feel for having gone through my own experience, but I’ve also seen friends go through similar experiences. After a friend recently confided to me that someone she knew raped her, I realized that I couldn’t expect my friends to speak out if I wasn’t willing to speak myself. I was 10 years old when my father came into my room and told me he wanted to show me something. He sexually assaulted me, and when he was done he told me to not tell my mother, and that it was between us. The following weeks my dad slipped into my room where I pretended to be asleep.

It didn’t matter. It happened again and again, each time more severe than the last. I thought at least it was only happening to me, and not to anyone else. It wasn’t until my late teens did I confide in a friend about what was happening at home. She luckily told her mother who said to me, “How would you feel if he did this to your sister or anyone else?”

As painful as it was to come out with my story, I knew that if I didn’t say anything, he would possibly harm the people I cared about most. I went to the police and they removed him from our home. However, until proven guilty, he was still loose, and he stalked me literally and in my dreams. I was tormented with nightmares, hallucinations and often went into uncontrollable fits of PTSD. I hated my body, and used sharp pins to damage my appearance so I wouldn’t be attractive.

Two years later, they put my dad on trial and he was convicted. But my story doesn’t end there. I went through several counselors, some of whom cried when I told them my story. When I tried to speak with friends and peers about what happened, they didn’t want to hear about it.

I lacked motivation for school or life in general, and my grades and health suffered greatly. I attempted to kill myself, because I felt like no one would care if I lived or died. It wasn’t until five years after the police removed my dad from our house that I started to enjoy life again. I prosecuted my father so he couldn’t hurt anyone else. But that isn’t enough. Too many violators are going free, and too many victims suffer for the rest of their lives. My story has a happy ending, but for so many people it does not.

About 293,000 people a year are sexually assaulted, two-thirds of the violators were someone the victim knew, and 68 percent of cases are never reported (RAINN: Rape Abuse and Incest National Network). One out of six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

I’m one of those women, and there are hundreds of thousands of women like me. It was very hard for me to speak out about my abuse, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It has allowed for my mom, sister and I to be safe. Speaking out protects those you love and protects any other potential victims.

If you are a victim, please speak out or your violator could potentially cause pain to someone else. If a victim speaks to you about being assaulted, please encourage them to tell a professional, a Green Dot counselor, the Health Center, or call a sexual assault hotline. Support them through the hardship so they don’t have to face the abuse alone.

Sexual assault will continue if we remain silent, and more lives will be ruined because of it. The more we encourage victims to talk and the more consequences there are for violators, the less abuse will happen in the future.

It’s not just a victims’ problem to deal with, it’s a perpetrator problem. But everyone should be speaking out about sexual assault, because it affects all of us. Speak out. Break the silence. Break the cycle.

Carolyn Munro is a senior English major and can be reached at