I never thought I would volunteer at a rape crisis center. I always knew rape and sexual assault existed, but for most of my life I did not seriously consider ways in which I could help those affected by sexual violence. I could not imagine that a large number of people actually experience such an evil and detrimental horror as rape is, but unfortunately many do. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would help play a positive role in the healing process of rape and sexual assault survivors, educate people, and be active in the fight against sexual violence, but often times our lives go in different directions than we plan or expect.
Sexual violence is very complex. Given that, I will not speak for every human being who has been affected by this crime. This book is by no means a blue print of how all rapes and sexual assaults occur, nor will I tell you how to feel. I do not have all of the answers to the many difficult questions that arise when discussing sexual violence, and I obviously do not know everyone who has experienced sexual violence. This book is about my experiences as a rape crisis counselor and the survivors I have met who felt strong enough and comfortable enough to share their stories with me and you. I have my opinions and ideas about different aspects of sexual violence, but neither I nor the people you will soon meet speak for humanity. Everyone’s story is his or her own. Everyone’s story is different. Growth and healing is different for everyone.
Sexual violence is not only a violent crime, but it is also a serious health issue. It affects people’s bodies, minds, hearts, and souls. I do not wish to name anyone’s experiences or claim knowledge of all the effects people may feel as a result of sexual violence, but I do know some things. I have learned that many survivors of sexual violence feel shame. Shame directly causes a variety of negative health issues, including mentalities about one’s self and behaviors. I hope to attempt to alleviate some of that shame through this book.
I have always cared about people and the world we all live in. As long as I can remember, I have been intrigued by the complexities of the human experience and questioned what it means to be human. It is fascinating to me that some people are happy, fulfilled, or loving, while others are unhappy, unfulfilled, or hateful. Even as a young boy, I questioned, Why is there so much hatred and violence in the world? Why do some people hate other people? Why do some people hurt other people? Why do some people rape other people? Why do some people kill other people? I have come to understand that I may never know the answers to these questions and many of the other difficult life questions that people contemplate, but one thing I do know is this: There are far too many men, women, and children who are sexually violated. It is my opinion that we are foolish if we do not take the issue of sexual violence seriously and help play a positive role in the healing process of individuals who experience it, as well as those indirectly impacted by it.
Throughout my life, I have been very empathetic toward the suffering of others. I contemplated the effects of violence, but I never did enough about the problems that I saw because I felt insecure. I didn’t think my voice mattered. I could easily discuss the variety of life issues with family and friends in my own home, but I did not have the confidence within myself to step out of my comfort zone. I had the passion deep down inside of me to help in some kind of way, but my insecure illusions about myself and my abilities crippled me. Given my insecurities, I never once thought I would join an organization whose purpose was to help any person affected by sexual violence at no cost to him or her, but I’m glad I broke down my own ridiculous barriers. Ultimately, making the choice to volunteer at The Healing Place changed my life and allowed me to impact the lives of some.
My experiences as a counselor have been painful and fulfilling. My heart has been broken and uplifted many times, but my spirit and faith have never left me. I’ve seen a lot of pain and heard a lot of horrible stories. I have listened to some of the most disturbing things possible. Sometimes what seems like a lie and impossible is the truth and possible. Some people experience vile crimes and live with painful memories that others cannot believe could even happen. Yet in such adversity, the strength of rape survivors is incredibly inspirational.
It is at times incomprehensible to acknowledge that such disturbing crimes are committed against others and then meditate on the damaging effects of those crimes. My journey as a rape crisis counselor and the stories you will read in this book are less than a fraction of the whole picture of survivors, perpetration, and sexual violence. But at least this is something. I hope this book can give anyone who reads it some sense of clarity, strength, and hope, as well as another opportunity for growing and healing if needed.
This book is not about statistics. The statistics are certainly out there; you can research and read them for yourself if you want to. I, however, will not share or focus on statistics because I do not want to treat people as numbers. Also, I believe rape and sexual assault are the least reported violent crimes. If it is true that these are the least reported crimes, then that means most of the people who experience these crimes are not represented in those statistics. To me, giving flawed and inaccurate statistics of rape and sexual assault is a disservice to those who do not report.
I believe there are many justified reasons why most people do not report, but I will mention two major reasons: First, many survivors do not report because they fear they will not be believed. Many have an image in their head about what a victim should look like because of the media and therefore will not report. Second, it is extremely difficult to report a violent crime against someone that is known to the person. Most survivors know their perpetrators, and the relationship between them makes reporting even harder than it might have been if the crime were perpetrated by a stranger. The bottom line is none of us will be able to understand the full extent of how common sexual violence is based on statistics because the statistics are only a fraction of what really occurs.
My simple truth when discussing the prevalence of sexual violence is this: I don’t know. I simply do not know how many people have been raped or sexually assaulted, nor do I know how many instances of violation have occurred in a single person’s life. I also do not know how many people have been indirectly impacted by sexual violence or how many cases of indirect impact have occurred in a single person’s life. No one knows.
I have to warn you before you continue reading that this book is graphic at times and may be triggering if you are a survivor. You will read people’s own words about their rape or multiple experiences with sexual violence. You will also have a chance to hear how the crime has affected them, how they have dealt with it, and how they have grown in their healing process. This book will be hard to read at times, and again, I have to stress that it may be triggering for some. With that, however, I encourage you that this book reflects and offers immense strength and hope.
In this book you will read the real stories of real people. I believe these stories will incite emotions and possibly painful memories. I highly suggest you read this book with a loved one near you, either in person or on the phone. This of course can be a family member, friend, therapist, religious or spiritual guide, or anyone else. Stay close to someone you love and trust. However, I also completely understand if you want to read this alone and not share with anyone. I just want to provide you with all possible options of ways to read these pages moving forward. Please take care of yourself, and do whatever it is that makes you feel better before, during, and after reading this book.
About the Author
Robert Uttaro currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts and is in his ninth year of working and volunteering as a rape crisis counselor, public speaker and community educator. Inspired by his undergraduate studies in Criminal Justice, he continues to embrace a life-long commitment to activism and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence. Serving as a counselor, Uttaro supports rape survivors and their significant others through various legal and case management issues. He also facilitates workshops aimed at education, prevention and exposure of the realities of sexual violence.
To The Survivors can be purchased HERE on Amazon.