[Please Welcome Robert Uttaro to the BonerFruit Blog. His message is an important one that needs sharing. You will find Robert’s full bio and contact information at the end of the post]
My work as a rape crisis counselor has been the most fulfilling aspect of my life. As hard as it can be to read or say the word “rape,” I would ask you to take some time and attempt to think of what someone who has experienced that crime might think and feel. How has the sexual violation affected their body, mind, heart, and soul?
Some people question how and why I even do this work, because they tend to perceive it as depressing and heavy. Certainly it can feel burdensome, but this work has been inspiring and humbling, as people open up to me about their deepest and darkest pain. Sexual violence in its many forms is deeply destructive, but does not have to control or destroy lives.
Through the grace of God, I was able to write To the Survivors, a book documenting my journey as a rape crisis counselor, with true stories of women, men and one transgendered man who were raped and sexually assaulted. The book contains poetry, written stories, and interviews with individuals who were vulnerable enough to open up about horrific experiences. They discuss what happened, how the crimes affected their lives, and how they have overcome. I have seen their testimonies resonate with those who are hurting, suffering, and lost, as well as inspire activism through education and counseling roles. They, and so many others, are lights through this dark aspect of humanity.
One of the biggest problems caused by sexual violence is how difficult it is to talk about, excruciating even, but necessary at some point to truly heal. Jim is one man who shared his story so openly about being raped by a Catholic priest in the book. Jim stayed silent for 25 years, and for him, talking about what happened was the hardest thing to do, but it was also the best thing for him to do.
Jim says from To the Survivors:
I was workin’ with Maddie and I was like a scared little boy, even though at the time I was a forty-five-year-old grown man. Looking back on just a year, where I was back then to where I am right now, it’s just light-years. Light-years different. The worst part of the healing process for me was actually opening up and tellin’ people. Even though I know that’s part of the healing process, that was also the most difficult part for me. When I went to the group, I used to just sit there and listen to everybody else talk, but not really add too much until I was prompted to. And then I would answer the question of whatever was goin’ on at the time. But I found out that as I continued down that road, and the more I talked about it, the more the recovery got a little bit better and a little bit stronger. But I know that without doing that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Putting yourself in that position is a huge step, and it’s a very risky and fragile step, but it’s also a step that needs to be taken because there is help. And you can get through something like this. You really can.
Hope is never lost, even if you feel hopeless or the world seems hopeless. There are many tools that we can use in our lives to help us whether we have been raped or not. I implore you to connect with the gifts around you:
Spending time with family & friends
Volunteering for something you are passionate about
Going out of your comfort zone
Listening to Others
To anyone reading this that has been affected by sexual violence in any way, you are not to blame. Nothing you did or didn’t do caused another to hurt you or a loved one. It is not your fault. It’s never your fault. You are not alone. You are never alone, even if you feel that way. There is someone out there that will listen to you, believe you, not judge you, and support you if you choose to open up. If you are not believed, or treated poorly after speaking up, know that there is someone else who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated and will help you along the way. Feelings of shame and guilt are normal, but know that shame and guilt do not have to remain throughout your life. You can grow and heal. You are stronger than you know, even when you feel weak. Be patient with yourself. Be good to yourself. Seek to understand the truth about yourself and listen to truth. Do not listen and believe the lies from sexual violence. To all who have been affected, know and truly understand that you are believed, you are not to blame, you are not alone, and you are loved more than you even understand.
Jim closes with:
You can have the shame taken away. You can go from bein’ awkward in social situations, from beatin’ yourself up with negative talk and everythin’ right across the board, to comin’ out the other side and standin’ on your own two feet. You can feel comfortable in your own skin, have your confidence come back, have your self-esteem come back, and see everything that’s good about the world. That does exist out there, even through something as very, very dark as this. There is hope on the other side. There really is.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with the effects of sexual violence, please check out these resources:
Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN): www.rainn.org
National Sexual Violence Resource Center: www.nsvrc.org/organizations
Survivors Chat: www.survivorschat.com/
After Silence: https://www.aftersilence.org/
National Eating Disorders: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/warning-signs-and-symptoms
National Suicide Prevention: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Online Suicide Crisis Network https://www.imalive.org/
International Association For Suicide Prevention https://www.iasp.info/index.php
Wishing you all peace and strength.
Praying for you.
About the Author:
Robert Uttaro is currently in his 12th year as a rape crisis counselor 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 myriad emotional, spiritual, and legal issues. He also facilitates workshops that unpack the realities of sexual violence, and offers strategies for support and prevention with a focus on healing.
Uttaro has been featured in magazine publications across the country and on international radio broadcasts; in fact, his book inspired the radio series by the same name, “To the Survivors” in Akure, Nigeria. Through the grace of God, Uttaro’s work and To the Survivors continues to impact peoples’ minds and hearts globally.
For more on Robert, and to purchase his book, please visit his website: