‘You deserve to have your story heard’: Rape survivor

May 5, 2017

‘You deserve to have your story heard’: Rape survivor

Georgia Harris said it took over 26 hours, with many breaks included and the support of her partner, to document her experiences. Photo: Supplied

When Georgia Harris saw a rape awareness video by the New Zealand Police on her Facebook feed she knew it was time to open up.

On May 2, in a blog post titled ‘Let’s talk about it,’ Miss Harris told her story of sexual abuse and later, rape, in more than 4000 words.

The Auckland travel agent told Te Waha Nui in an online conversation that it took courage.

“I [shared] it to Facebook and deleted it five times before I actually had the guts to leave it there.

“I felt physically sick the whole day but after I posted it I had a flood of messages from people I didn't know telling me their stories I felt a huge weight lift off me.”

This week is New Zealand Rape Awareness Week.

Miss Harris said she had always felt an urge to speak publicly about the rape, however never felt it was the right time.

“By coming out into the public eye with this story I feel like I have so many strong and beautiful women who are behind me and supporting me in my choice.

“I wanted people to feel and envision the hurt rape causes and what it does to people,” she said.

Debbi Tohill, executive director of Rape Prevention Education, an agency that works in sexual violence prevention, said survivors often feel a mixture of shame and guilt, and may blame themselves.

“It can be very hard for survivors to open up about their experiences…they may be worried about the effect their disclosure might have on the family.”

According to both the NZ Police and Rape Prevention Education, an estimated 9 per cent of sexual violence cases are reported.

From July 2014 until the close of January this year, 13,758 people reported sexual violence incidents.

Sheryl Robinson, central regional manager of Victim Support, said the most crucial thing to do if a survivor discloses to family members or friends is to believe them.

“…Respect them and the feelings they are expressing, reassure them that it is not their fault, allow them to take their time. Being patient, and checking in with their needs are important,” said Ms Robinson.

Miss Harris’ mother Lynda Parris said she felt relief that her daughter had reached the point where she was strong enough to share her story.

She said parents of rape survivors needed to offer support, not judgment.

“Take the information and focus on supporting your child before sorting your own emotions.”

Miss Harris said people needed to use their voice to remove the taboo around sexual violence cases.

“You are all loved and all deserved to have your story heard.”

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