By Norma Bastidas, Athlete and CEO, Adventure Documentaries
A lot has changed since I started advocating against sexual violence eight years ago. Back then, we mostly met privately at a community hall basement or at a shelter and discussed it as small support group. The few people that got to hear our stories were sympathetic but we were never encouraged to speak publicly about it. As an activist I knew that the only way to end sexual violence was to speak openly about it, after all, you can’t change what you don’t understand. That is why I broke the Guinness World Record for the longest triathlon, it was my way of getting people’s attention to discuss it openly. Since the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, as a result of the courageous decision of women like Rose McGowan, Asia Argento, and Ashley Judd among many others to openly denounce him, this issue became front page news, so finally, organizations realized it’s too expensive to ignore and that changes needed to be made.
It will be easy to believe that we don’t need to hear anymore stories, that just because we are now aware of it is enough to end it and that is a mistake. If we are really to end sexual violence we need to keep listening to the stories that are continuing to come out. We might be tempted to tune out, to think that we understand and that we don’t need to talk about it anymore, it but it's important that we continue to listen and keep learning or we risk leaving some victims behind if they don’t fit our limited understanding of this complex issue. We need to become better at respecting each individual’s boundaries and we can only do this by listening. After all, is not up to us to tell somebody where their boundaries should be, it's up to us to ask where there are and respect them; that is what consent is.
As an activist, I am making sure that the conversation continues, that sexual violence doesn’t become an issue we discuss when is trendy then move on. We have made some strides but we are far from done. After #MeToo and #TimesUp I was wondering if I wasn’t needed as a speaker anymore, but there is so much confusion and misunderstanding around sexual violence and especially sexual harassment that I realized speaking publicly is still not only important but also necessary. Stepping back right now will be doing a disservice to all the courageous women that fought before me for the right to have our stories heard and those that came after me. We are a reminder that sexual violence is not about a trendy topic, is about us survivors whose lives had been shattered but refused to let those moments defined the rest of our lives. I will continue advocating against sexual violence until we get it right for everyone, not just some. Just like my endurance events, I don’t stop when I am tired, I stop when I get to the finish line.
Join Norma Bastidas at Women’s Forum Canada, 10-11 May in Toronto. Click here for more information.
The original article appeared in Huffpost Quebec. Read it in French here.