August 1, 2017 From the Invisible Front Line By Veronika Sprinkel The United States of America is a vast and diverse nation, built on the backs of immigrants, explorers, and innovators. Core American values dictate all American citizens are equal, regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic standing, political or religious belief. America is said to be a place where anyone with a dream can work hard and realize it. But is this actually true? Right now, in the eyes of the law, the answer is a resounding no. More than half of all American citizens risk falling prey to discrimination. This rarely-talked-about yet socially-accepted norm prevents many from realizing their full potential. They are held back, scared to speak-up, afraid they might lose their job, their friends and family, or even worse, intensify their abuser’s permitted wrath. And when one member of our community falters, especially at the hand of another, the rest of us falter as well. Until equality for all is explicitly spelled out, in no uncertain terms, as letter of the United States Constitution—stating all women, men, transgender, and gender-fluid Americans are in fact wholly equal—we as a nation will continue to fall behind. Take, for example, Kyra, who left her job in Washington State, after being raped by a coworker at a company party. When Kyra’s boss found out, he held Kyra responsible for the entire ordeal. Read Kyra’s story, and see how incidents like these are only part of the damage done. How a victim’s aftershock is often as harmful as their attack, and how within each and every one of us, lives the strength and the courage to fight for something better. Kyra’s Story: “You have to remember that your actions have consequences.” It had been three days since my boss’ wife had informed him that I had been raped by a coworker at an informal work party over Labor Day weekend, 2016. I had naively assumed that his silence meant that he was devoting every spare moment to strategizing the perpetrator’s immediate dismissal and how the company was going to support me moving forward. While my boss and I had had multiple conflicts regarding unfair wages and his belittling, misogynistic tone, I knew that he would put these issues aside, after all rape is a crime—I was wrong. As it turned out, my boss had called to get my assistance in handling an issue with our video editing system. This was the first time hearing from him since I had spent nearly two hours speaking with his wife about how the employee (who was sober at the time) had sexually assaulted me while I was heavily intoxicated. However, I kept this bewilderment to myself and walked him through the process of resolving the problem and as he began to thank me for my help I cut him off , “Did your wife tell you what happened to me?” “Yes.” my boss flatly responded. “And…?”, I inquired as my grip tightened around my phone, bracing myself for the impact of his words. “Well,” he begins, “it sounds like you had a lot to drink that night. You have to remember that your actions have consequences.” My eyes immediately filled with tears and as he continued on his justification parade, explaining that there was nothing he could do unless I sat in a room with my attacker to “talk it out” and how this was a “lesson for next time.” I finally found my voice long enough to say, “Ok. Thanks. Bye.” Five months later, my former boss casually emailed me to see if I still had the key to the editing room. When I responded “no”, he asked if something was wrong. He’ll never get a reply… Perhaps he should direct that question to the rapist who still works there? I returned to school three weeks after the rape. I tried everything to maintain the “perfect student” facade. I got A’s on all of my assignments, showed up and participated in every class, kept my smile and sense of humor, and “everything’s good” became my go-to response when people asked how I was doing. The moment I was alone, I turned to alcohol, contemplated suicide, and entered the deepest depression of my life. I cut off all of the friends who were in my life prior and it wasn’t until disclosing to some of my classmates and learning that they too were survivors, that I finally felt as if someone cared and who could relate to the trauma and devastation that this caused. I recently graduated this June, after adding an additional major, starting my own organization on campus devoted to sexual and relationship violence, presenting my first research poster, being asked to be the first Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies student representative, winning a grant to fund my organization’s work, and being awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, which was presented to me at commencement. These accomplishments are not included simply as “brags” but are a reminder to every individual who has experienced trauma that it does get better—as cliche as that sounds. We are more than the injustices we face. We are more than the hurt and pain that we harbor in ourselves. We are unhealed agents of change and we all have the ability to make a better future for ourselves not just despite of what has happened to us but because of everything we have overcome. Our resilience is resistance. I believe equal means equal because every person is entitled to safety, self-worth, and a future.