The truth behind victim shaming and why we need to break free from it
When she was sexually assaulted, Amber Amour, 27, turned to social media for support. Here, she tells Marie Claire why she chose to #BREAKFREE from Shame.
‘The first time I experienced sexual violence, I was 12 years old, so confronting rape has been a life-long thing for me. Then, when I was 24, I started my campaign – ‘Stop Rape. Educate’ – in September 2014, after I was sexually assaulted by my roommate in New York, and I just didn’t appreciate the way the police handled the situation. I’ll never forget calling 911 and reporting my assault – only for eight male officers to turn up at my door. I was like, ‘OK, I said the rapist wasn’t here, so I don’t need eight of you, and at least send one woman, please?’ I don’t think they realised how traumatic it is for a survivor.
But then it got worse. One of the officers asked me if I was ‘sure’ that my rapist had known I meant no. ‘Maybe he thought you meant yes,’ he said. I remember looking down at his wedding ring and thinking, ‘if your wife says no, do you keep on going? Do you disregard that?’. Then, after all that, they ended up dismissing the court case anyway.
I felt that if I wanted to get justice, I needed to take things into my own hands. So I started doing chalk art – writing messages about rape culture and respecting women – all over the streets of NYC. It was therapeutic for me, and eventually it took off, so I developed a social media following of women and men who felt the same way that I did. We all believed that we needed to speak out and eliminate the shame that surrounds sexual assault. I starting organising events, talks and art therapy sessions in New York. After eight or nine months, I asked my followers – I think I had about 5000 of them at the time – where they wanted me to take my campaign, they voted for Australia, South Africa, England, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. So I planned a ‘Stop Rape. Educate’ World Tour.
Things didn’t work out as planned. The tour had been going brilliantly, and I was halfway through when I reached Cape Town. I’d been staying at a hostel called ‘Carnival Court’, but it’s a noisy, jam-packed place, so I moved out and just went back to hang out at the bar instead. I was actually looking for a friend, when I went up to the third floor – and a local South African man followed me. To cut a long story short, we ended up in the bathroom and that’s where he assaulted me. I don’t even know how to explain it. It was just completely unexpected.
I immediately knew that I couldn’t keep what had happened a secret. Here I was, telling survivors every single day that they should speak up… I knew I had to practise what I preached. So the first thing I did was take a picture and write a post, describing what had happened.
It was almost an intuitive thing. I was still in the bathroom – in the crime scene. I don’t even think I’d stood up. I just typed and typed.
Video: Rape and victim shaming - a man's story.
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