A Survivor of Sexual Assault Shares Her Powerful Story

Cassy Byrne founded Northwestern University’s Secular Student Alliance a few years ago and I’ve had the chance to work with her on a few different events. She’s an awesome person to work with and a terrific activist.

So it was definitely a jarring experience for me to read a series of posts she put up on her website today. She talks about being sexually assaulted, why she was silent about it for a long time, what it did to her emotionally and physically, and how she managed to make it out as a survivor. It’s eye-opening, depressing, honest, and powerful. The only thing I’m posting here are her goals in sharing her story:

1) To give a detailed first-hand account of how sexual assault, in its variety of forms, can — and does — occur in the real world.

2) To give fellow survivors a name for what happened to them (understand that we, as a society, are typically not given a comprehensive — nor accurate — definition of what sexual assault actually is, and for this reason, many survivors end up suffering in silence for months or even years without knowing why, which means that they are unable to find support when they need it most, i.e., THIS).

3) To give those who are unfamiliar with sexual violence an inside look into (a) all of the complex issues that are interwoven between sexuality, violence, relationships, and abuse, and (b) the various ways in which the psychology of a victim can respond to said abuse.

4) To dispel widespread myths and misconceptions about all of the above, and in doing so, generate a safer, more understanding, and more informed environment for sexual assault survivors and friends to cohabit. :)

Please read the whole thing.

I’m glad she didn’t edit this to make it shorter. It’s a long series because there’s a lot to talk about. I hope it encourages other women (and men) to speak up if they ever end up in this horrible situation.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://miriammogilevsky.wordpress.com Miriam Mogilevsky

    This is the most powerful thing I’ve read for a while. If you can, you should read it.

  • LesterBallard

    Incredible.

    Now I’m waiting for the cries of “what does this have to so with atheism”. Also looking forward to hearing from the MRA assholes.

    • Miss_Beara

      What/who is MRA?

      • http://miriammogilevsky.wordpress.com Miriam Mogilevsky

         Men’s Rights Activists. They generally seem to believe that women just looooove making false rape accusations.

      • LesterBallard

        Men’s Rights Advocates

    • HughInAz

      I’m sure you’re disappointed that it hasn’t happened yet. Look, this is a horrifying story, do you really have to exploit it for ideological partisan gain?

      • LesterBallard

        No, I’m not disappointed. I hope it’s because people have thought things over. oh yeah; lick my sweaty taint.

      • LesterBallard

        Yeah, I’m partisan about assholes who make rape jokes. I’m even more partisan about it when they’re serious. I’m so partisan I’d like to stomp mudholes in their asses and walk them dry.

    • Paul_Robertson
      • LesterBallard

        ;-)

  • Miss_Beara

    That was really intense and wonderfully written.

  • RosieY

    Whew, just got done reading the whole thing. It was definitely worth the time spent. I thank you for linking to it!

  • anon101

    A good reminder that 70 % to 80 % of the sexual assaults are committed
    by men with whom the victim is at least weakly acquainted with not by
    complete strangers that approach you in an elevator in the middle of
    the night.

    • http://miriammogilevsky.wordpress.com Miriam Mogilevsky

       Really now? Get lost.

    • http://brassycassy.deviantart.com BrassyCassy

      That’s funny, because in the story, my rapist started out as a stranger asking me to have coffee with him. 

      #iguessyouneverknowhuh

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      Yes, it’s a great reminder that people are often abused by someone they are in a relationship with. However, that still leaves 20-30% of sexual assaults to be committed by strangers.
      There are still *very good reasons* to be cautious around strangers who show interest in you, especially in isolated areas, so grow up and respect others’ rights to remain cautious.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I’m not going to read it. Not for lack of interest, but because it’s probably going to be triggering and I really can NOT deal with that right now.

    • Baby_Raptor

      *hugs* You sound like you could use them

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Hugs are always accepted!

    • RebeccaSparks

      Yes, there’s a (very appropriate) trigger warning on it -  “TRIGGER WARNING: No-holds-barred descriptions of sexual violence and strong language to follow (also, discussion of depression, PTSD, alcohol abuse, and anorexia). Please, practice self-care in reading this, as I made sure to do so in writing it.”

  • Pseudonym

    Wow. Just… wow. This is important. If you’re not going to be triggered by it, you should read it.

    Something that did strike me, being almost 40, is the role that pornography plays. Some of the people in the story are predators. There’s no way to sugar coat that. Others read more like deeply screwed-up people who have no idea what a healthy intimate relationship is like.

    But even the predators seem to riff on on the tropes of porn, where women are treated like shit and certain acts are required or it’s not sex. a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FV8n_E_6Tpc”>I’m sure you get the idea. I figured that the pervasiveness of porn was screwing up relationships, but I didn’t realise that it also fuelled abuse.

    Of course, I’m not suggesting that we ban porn. I’m advocating that we talk honestly and openly about sex, to counter the misinformation that is pornography.

  • Anonymous

    It is brave for Cassy to tell her story. I’ve been searching for an intersection of secularists and survivors.  It’s very difficult for atheists to find supportive communities that respect our non-beliefs. Every support group I’ve found either uses spiritual techniques in their recovery or they insist that you can’t fully heal unless you heal spiritually.  Even though these groups teach us to set boundaries, whenever I’ve set a boundary about religion/spirituality, it hasn’t been respected. And I’m not even in the bible belt. I wish there were support groups for assault survivors that didn’t try to proselytize their members.


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