THE BLOG
10/04/2018 12:23 EDT | Updated 10/04/2018 12:33 EDT

For Survivors Of Sexual Violence, Even 40 Years Will Never Be Enough Time

Christine Blasey Ford said she was sexually assaulted in 1982. I was raped just years earlier. People assume we'd be "over it" by now — that's not the case.

Not a day goes by without me remembering what I so desperately try to forget. Today, I am surrounded by much love. I am surrounded by an incredible care team of trauma-informed individuals who assure me I am loved, worthy and whole... and yet, I still struggle every day to forget.

For me, and for countless other survivors of sexual violence, the recent U.S. Senate hearings into the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh have reminded us of what we live to forget.

SIPA USA/PA Images
Christine Blasey Ford testifies during the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

Witnessing the courage rise in the trembling voice of Dr. Blasey Ford filled us with hope, a hope that was trounced upon amid vitriol and partisan politics that quickly filled that fragile space.

Much of the public discourse around Dr. Blasey Ford's testimony has focused on her ability to recall the alleged sexual assault itself with vivid clarity, but not some other details. People who work with survivors of sexual violence and trauma will tell you that during an assault, some images are seared into our memory, while others fade and recede. The thing is, we would all know this to be true if we, as a society, actually had an open dialogue about the prevalence and repercussions of sexual violence... but we don't. For whatever reason, we appear to be incapable of talking about a pervasive trauma that affects one in three girls and women, and one in six boys and men in North America.

Many people assume that we'd be "over it" or "recovered from it" by now — but that is simply not the case.

It's been 40 years since I was sexually assaulted and raped by two men in a ravine.

To this day, I have a vivid memory of their faces, the shoes they wore, the smell of their sweat and the smell of the musty and muddy earth. Just as is the case with Dr. Blasey Ford, some details are inaccessible to me. Can I recall the exact date the assault occurred? No. Can I recall with whom I spoke to before and after the assault? No.

Similarly, it's been approximately 36 years since Dr. Blasey Ford's assault allegedly took place. Many people assume that we'd be "over it" or "recovered from it" by now — but that is simply not the case.

Joshua Roberts / Reuters
Protesters rally before a hearing where Christine Blasey Ford will testify about an accusation that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982, on Sept. 27, 2018.

It's been 40 years since I was sexually assaulted and raped, and I still have night terrors and panic attacks.

It's been 40 years since I was sexually assaulted and raped, and I still have major anxiety in situations in which I feel confined — on the subway, at a dinner party, on a plane, in a doctor's office.

It's been 40 years since I was sexually assaulted and raped, and I still struggle with being touched, holding my wife's hand, having a toddler wrap his or her arms around me.

I still relive the horror of my assault when I see the inhumane way survivors of sexual assault are treated.

It's been 40 years since I was sexually assaulted and raped, and I still struggle in relationships and have trust issues. This is particularly true of my relationships with men, and probably accounts for why the vast majority of my friends are (and always have been) women.

It's been 40 years since I was sexually assaulted and raped, and I still have to sit on the edge of the aisle in a cinema or theatre.

Toronto Star via Getty Images
Jean-Paul Bedard is a survivor of sexual assault and rape, and brings awareness to these issues.

It's been 40 years since I was sexually assaulted and raped, and I still regularly see a PTSD psychiatrist and surround myself with a trauma-informed care team.

It's been 40 years since I was sexually assaulted and raped, and I still relive the horror of my assault when I see the inhumane way survivors of sexual assault are treated when they come forward to bravely share what happened to them.

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My message is not one of despair, but rather of the belief that all of this exposed pain and shame that is rising to the surface of our communities might just be the beginning of us having that difficult discussion we, as a society, have been avoiding for so many years.

We don't have to "fix" other people's suffering, we just need to make space for it to breathe, space for it to heal; and hopefully if we honour that space, we can do whatever is necessary not to repeat that suffering.

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