Changing the Narrative of Victim Shaming
Student organization Rise Together created a viewing of survivors of sexual assault clothing in their “What were You Wearing?” Their special guest was Melody Wilson, life coach and abuse survivor.
Rise together contacted the Pembroke community, UNCP’s faculty, staff and students, who experienced sexual abuse, to provide the clothing that they wore during the incident. They created a display to show how “the type of clothing doesn’t determine whether or not a person will face sexual assault.”
Some clothing couldn’t be retrieved so they used similar clothing inspired by the survivor’s outfit.
Haiven Pierce, Rise Together president, spoke about her experience in high school with her best friend’s boyfriend during her freshman year.
“I usually wear a hoodie and jeans to school so I stayed covered up. I will make a disclaimer before I really dive into my story at all, I was never physically abused in anyway, it was more of a mental abuse that I experienced,” she said.
Pierce said there were some unwanted physical aspects but it never escalated to the point that the police would be involved.
She started to grow fearful after the boyfriend found out that Pierce planned to tell her friend about his abuse towards her. When she did decide to consult with her family and the friend, she faced victim blaming.
“My parents punished me for what happened and I eventually was able to tell my best friend,” she said. “She didn’t believe me, she chose to believe him and stuck with him.”
Pierce said the friend’s boyfriend contacted her five years later apologizing for his behavior towards her. She was originally going to text him that “she didn’t appreciate what he did to her and it was a cowardly thing for him to do” but she added another paragraph “thanking him for creating a stepping stone in her life and now she advocates for those who face sexual abuse,”
Wilson shared her story about being sexually abused by her father.
“When I would braid his hair, he would put hand on me and start go up my thigh, I was like ‘something is not right,’ so I pushed his hand away, then he did it again and I got mad and went to my room,” she said.
Wilson recalled wearing a long “granny” grown every night to bed when her father would try to sexually abuse her so she understood that clothing wasn’t an indication on whether or not someone get sexually abused.
When the town, school and family found out about her father’s sexual abuse towards her a year later, she lost friends and some family members refuse to speak to them.
“During his hearing, his lawyer blamed me for what I wore and had the nerve to ask me why didn’t I defend myself because my father was a Taekwondo instructor,” she said.
Wilson encourages other survivors to remember that “to tell your own story, don’t let nobody tell it for you.”