Sexual exploitation knows no bounds. Its injustices do not happen to specific people, committed by one type of assailant, with precise variables leading to the same crime. Sexual predators may use a demeanor that gets them close to their victims that goes unnoticed by others. Individuals we would never label by their appearance traumatize our friends and members of our families. While a few of these perpetrators are being held accountable, the majority are not. This is not a women’s issue that only affects females. Men have also come forward with stories of abuse. The impact of sexual assault goes beyond the primary victim to impact those around them. This is a human rights violation that we have the power to stop.
Each time I turn on the news, there is another story of sexual assault—campus sexual assaults in Steubenville High school or Penn State, gang rapes in India, military sexual assaults all over, even incidents committed in the streets of my community are covered on the nightly news. They are stories of a victim, an assailant, and whatever snippet of information the news source believes will improve ratings.
I fought back tears reading the comments following an Associated Press article released in over 250 news sources covering my own story of rape and sexual assault. I sought legal justice in hope that my attacker would be held accountable for his actions–so that his hands would no longer be able to traumatize other women. The press pitted the Peace Corps against the US Military since I was a Volunteer in country and he was an American Navy sailor supporting Navy Seals in Uganda. I was not prepared for the malicious comments made by strangers making their own conclusions after reading a one page article that could never depict that night or the year and a half that it took to get to trial.
One of the commenters said the newspaper articles from the first day of trial did not provide enough information to make a conclusion. Another said that because the newspapers revealed the alleged perpetrators name the alleged victim’s name should also have to be published. As the victim, I intimately know details of that night. As the victim, I am not ashamed of my behavior so I will gladly provide my name:
My name is Sandi Giver and this is the story of my sexual assault. I started writing after the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) took my statement. I started because I knew I would have to recount every detail in my testimony and continued writing as a way to release my tormenting thoughts, internal challenges. After having several conversations trying to understand sexual assault and learning of all the misconceptions, I felt the need to share my story to not only help others find comfort in the fact that they are not alone in their struggles but to also bring about positive change through awareness.
Most of this book was written within days of the actual events. Dialogue is quoted as it was spoken, and as it stood out in my mind days after the events. I struggled typing the words but by doing so fortified my resilience for standing for truth and justice I found accepting individuals who supported me along the way both at Peace Corps, the military, with fellow survivors, and in the few friends and family members with whom I shared that portion of my treacherous journey with.
We must educate ourselves about the impact of sexual assault, to be cognizant of the signs of sexual predators, and learn how to support our friends and family members who have experienced this kind of injustice. Within our communities, it is essential we have a system to raise a generation with healthy sexuality and to be law abiding citizens. We must train our first responders to be victim sensitive, to have fair and just trials which truly find legal justice, and provide social service resources for victims. As a society, we need to start believing victims rather than blaming them. The cultural norm should be that we treat each other with dignity rather than tolerate sexual violence, and that we keep institutions and agencies accountable
I have hope for the future for I have seen the diligence and impact of men and women within our society that through their work and personal lives are creating a ripple in society. These individuals are my heroes.
Please read what follows with a contemplative mind. Challenge your current conceptions of sexual assault, and become aware of the reality that survivors like myself must live through. If we acknowledge the reality of sexual assault, we can then take action and change the status quo. I hope that in our life time, sexual assault will not be tolerated. This is my story, but I am only One of Us.
If interested in reading a little more about the trial, please read my short response to the case and AP article in the previous blog post Navy Sailor Acquitted in Rape Case Against Peace Corps Volunteer.