“Validation” is the biggest gift one can give to a survivor

jameslandrith
Sexual Assault survivor and advocate, James Landerith, speaks to students in the Machuga Student Center. Credit: Ceara Navarro.

BY CEARA NAVARRO

Sexual assault survivor and Marine veteran James Landrith spoke to students and faculty last Thursday about his journey ever since he decided to come forward about his rape at the hands of a woman he barely knew nearly 30 years ago.

Landrith explained how he had met the woman through a friend of friend while clubbing. He was 19-years-old and she was “24 or 25.” After some time, Landrith said the woman asked him to take her home and as thanks she bought him drinks.

The final drink, Landrith said, “didn’t feel right” and he knew he wouldn’t be able to drive her home. On her suggestion, they stayed in motel for the night with two twin beds. He slept alone, but awoke to her straddling him.

“‘Be still,’” Landrith recalled his attacker saying to him, still groggy from being drunk. “‘Don’t be forceful.’”

“I kept my mouth shut and did what I was told,” Landrith said. “I didn’t want to risk hurting her to protect myself.”

Landrith said that while he was not afraid for his life, he was “afraid of what will come after.”

“How would I look?” he asked rhetorically. “She told me she was four months pregnant.”

Landrith said that not long after his rape, the Gulf War started and he had to move on. And he moved on for 18 years, not having words for what happened to him. Until 2008, when he had a conversation with his female co-worker, when he finally disclosed what happened to him that night in 1990.

“She looked at me and said, ‘That’s rape,’” Landrith said. “Someone validated it.”

Validation is one of the most important things one can give to a survivor, Landrith explained.

“Just letting them know you’re listening means more than you’ll ever know.”

From then on Landrith went public with his story and has spoked to CNN, RoleReboot and HuffPost Live, to name a few. He also works as writer, rape crisis worker and survivor speaker.

Landrith explained that survivors should know why they are sharing their story. For him it was cathartic, but it may not be for everyone. If a survivor does not know why, then they will not know if they are “successful.”

In regards to the negatives of #MeToo, Landrith recounted many comments he received from people skeptical that what happened to him could even be considered rape, because he is man and was assaulted by a woman. Many of his harshest critics were women, themselves.

“‘I apologize for not being more sympathetic,’” one person said to him. “‘But what happened to you was unfortunate, but not detrimental.’” Landrith explained that the person was minimizing his assault, because he was not at risk of becoming pregnant.

Landrith concluded with the positives, which is the validation someone can give to another survivor.

“Someone who tells their story is brave. Someone that doesn’t tell their story is brave,” Landrith said. “It’s your story to tell and what to do with it.”

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