During Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), KATANA Safety has strived to bring attention to the purpose of our product – providing peace of mind when encountering a vulnerable situation. Sexual assault is an epidemic and according to RAINN.org, 1 out of 6 American women and 1 out of 33 American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Statistics show the numbers, but they do not tell the stories of the individuals who live with the trauma of these experiences. I have spoken to countless victims and survivors throughout the last 20 years I have worked to end sexual and domestic violence. The stories are tragic and heart-wrenching. So often, they are filled with regret, shame, self-blame, and anger. As SAAM comes to a close, we want to honor one survivor’s story to educate our customers about sexual assault.
Five years ago, Meghan’s life drastically changed. After a typical night out at a place she deemed her “Cheers,” she was followed home by a man she casually knew and whom she met at the bar earlier that night. Being a Southern woman, accustomed to Southern hospitality, she ignored the red flags and instead hoped that he was ensuring she arrived home safe as she regretfully decided to drive after having a few drinks. He asked to come inside, and not wanting to seem rude, she let him in, ignoring more red flags. After leaving him in the living-room, she went to the bedroom and fell asleep only to wake to him raping her, not once, but twice.
As with most victims of rape by an acquaintance, she did not immediately identify her experience as rape. Many victims of sexual assault don’t believe they were raped because it doesn’t look like an episode of Law and Order: SVU. We often think about rapists as being evil people, and not as someone who we may have wanted to kiss just hours before. Yet that is a very common experience. Five years after the incident, unexpected tears fell down her cheeks as she recounted the incident to me. While she spoke about feeling violated, she somehow felt that she was to blame – she shouldn’t have been drinking, she shouldn’t have driven home, she shouldn’t have put herself in a vulnerable situation. I reminded her that while those reactions are common for victims of sexual assault, no one who drinks too much, or even decides to drive when they’re drinking, should be raped. She was not to blame. The only person responsible for her being rape was the man who raped her. However our society reinforces victim-blaming by asking harmful questions – what were you wearing, why did you go home with him, why didn’t you fight back – which leaves victims silent and frozen with fear.
Crippling fear is a common symptom that victims of sexual assault report because any sense of safety they had is shattered. This fear increases exponentially when they know the perpetrator because it changes how they trust the people they know. For Meghan, the silence lasted for months. Even though she was lucky enough to have a friend who believed her and took her to the hospital, she still hid the incident from her family due to the shame of driving after having a few drinks. As with many survivors, she retreated into the darkness of isolation for many months. Through therapy she has broken through the silence and isolation, but the fear remains. Walking through the world is often challenging as the fear, anxiety, and thought of the rape always lingers in the back of her mind, especially since the man was found not guilty even after acknowledging what he had done to police.
The trauma experienced from a sexual assault can last a lifetime, even with therapy. A simple device can help a survivor move through the world more freely, knowing that help is just an alarm away. Through therapy, Meghan has learned to cope with the anxiety and fear that she has, yet it still remains. A year ago, she was gifted the KATANA Arc and said that it has empowered her to do things by herself, knowing that she can quickly alert the 24/7 KATANA Call Center or her Circle of Seven. She is now more comfortable dating, knowing that if the anxiety makes her freeze, she can silently push a button and alert friends that she needs help. When she feels red flags that she previously ignored, she knows she has an easy, fast way to contact someone 24/7 without feeling like she’s overreacting.
At KATANA Safety, we created a device to help anyone have more peace of mind when they are in a vulnerable situation. We are grateful for the opportunity to empower victims and survivors of sexual assault. While we hope that one day sexual assault will end and our product will no longer be necessary, we know that there is still so much work to be done to make that happen. Until then, we will work to help survivors heal by providing them with a tool.