Survivors of Sexual Assault: Learn to Heal

NOTE: Take Back the Night was a fabulous, meaningful event on April 13, 2012. But not to worry if you missed it! Want to pursue healing? Well, then, heck, contact Detroit’s Sexual Assault Services for Holistic Healing and Awareness (SASHA)

But also read Kalimah’s important story below …

I am a survivor of rape during my childhood and as a young adult in the context of a date.

I blamed myself for the rapes and as a result assumed that I deserved to be treated badly by others and accepted it. In other words I engaged in risky behaviors trying to mask the rapes that had occurred. I knew both of the rapists fairly well and carried the guilt and shame for years – that is until I realized that I was responsible for my own healing.

Healing from rape is a diverse, life long process.

Each survivor heals in her or his own way. I needed courage, help and acceptance to recover from the rapes I experienced. I personally found that voicing my experience in a safe space and creating opportunities to share with others who have had the same experience has helped tremendously in my healing. I see the amazing changes that take place in survivors’ lives when they recognize their strength and their creativity by embracing their power.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is a focused opportunity to bring attention to survivors, create safe places and speak out without shame about their experiences as survivors.

Most important, if you are a survivor of rape and want to eliminate the guilt, share space and time with others like yourself and learn how to be creative, loud, unashamed and place blame where it belongs, then meet me at Marygrove College on April 13, 2012 at 6pm to hear the truth, share your creativity, raise your voice and support other survivors.

Together we can bring attention to sexual assault to prevent this crime in the future.

We will gather to encourage healing and offer you the path to find your own purpose while you integrate this experience and use it as a place of power from which to create ways of loving yourself.

Too often, victims of sexual assault are silenced because of the shame and guilt associated with such a heinous crime. The fact that some folks don’t want to believe that people have the capacity to be that evil is part of the reason why there is a hush in our communities concerning rape.

Our communities are programmed to paint pictures of perpetrators who lurk in the dark, hide in bushes and use weapons and extreme violence to assault victims/survivors. However, that is quite the contrary.

Perpetrators come in all genders, shapes, sizes and colors and often have ‘roles’ in our lives as family members, teachers, community leaders, politicians, pastors and friends. They use tactics such as grooming, gaining the trust of victims, coercion and other strategies to take advantage of victims/survivors.

This is why it is complicated when they consider seeking help, involving the police, protecting themselves and speaking out against rape.

Trayvon Martin, his “hoodie” and the movement to bring attention to the circumstances of his death, reminds me of the age-old argument that what you wear can put you at risk for victimization and even death. What happened to Trayvon makes me think of the infamous “short skirt” or too “tight jeans” worn by women and used against them in the court of law when their honesty is questioned around whether or not a rape has occurred.

The truth remains that no hoodie, skirt or jeans should put anyone at risk for any victimization. But it does. And it can jeopardize a persons’ capacity to be safe in their own homes, communities and country. This is a damned shame.

I have worked in the sexual assault arena for many years, most of those years were with the Detroit Police Department as a Clinical Social Worker. I have learned that when it comes to those who are vulnerable, we too often concentrate on teaching tactics for defending themselves against rape.

  • We rarely concentrate on prevention or on teaching individuals simple civility, human rights and proper boundaries.
  • We rarely discuss the extent to which rape is a crime of power and control and not of passion.
  • We commercialize rape as a desirable thing, something for mere entertainment.
  • We romanticize the notion of rape as opposed to the fact that it can kill one’s spirit for the sake of amusement.

Lately, the city of Detroit has been bombarded by so much violence it is difficult to just concentrate on one type of crime.

However, rape is happening in this city more often than we are willing to admit – because it is extremely uncomfortable to imagine that sexual assault is so common and ordinary in a place you love, live and work.



About Kalimah

Kalimah Johnson, LMSW is an Adjunct Professor of Social Work at Marygrove College and Founder/Executive Director of SASHA Center in Detroit, Michigan, she is also a consultant to the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the National Football League-Detroit Lions. She has been an advocate and counselor to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence for 20+ years and is an industry expert on topics related to culturally specific programming for sexual assault survivors, healthy relationships, domestic/sexual violence, emotional intelligence, mental health and well-being. Most recently, she completed the Athlete Development Professional Certification Program at the University of Pennsylvania-The Wharton School/Aresty Institute of Executive Education to increase her skills and capacity of working with and on behalf of professional athletes and continues to create culturally specific services/training and workshops for DV and SA programs nationally and abroad. Her interests include writing and performing poetry and she owns a natural hair care studio.

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