Flora Marcella | The Sexual Assault Survivor Who Dares to Speak Up
Many women in Indonesia who experienced sexual abuse face so much pressure from society including their inner circles. People labeled them as a 'Dirty Woman' whose dignity has been torn apart without having any empathy to learn about her story and the struggles she’s facing. These women are our real heroes as we cannot imagine the pain they went through and it’s about time to change our mindset and be less judgmental towards them.
To celebrate every strong woman out there, this month we're interviewing Flora Marcella, who dared to speak her voice as a survivor of sexual assault. She will be sharing her story about that unfateful incident. and how being a survivor motivated her to raise awareness about mental health & emotional healing through her YouTube channel, Rise Project Indonesia.
Could you share with us when did that happen?
At first, I couldn't recall any memories of what happened to me that day because I was 7 back then. I had some kind of amnesia, and my family never talked about it. So, I just lived my life normally like any other kids until I turned 14. I had a menstruation problem at that time and decided to see a doctor, and that's when the doctor told me that I didn't have a hymen—which means I'm no longer a virgin!
So I began questioning my parents. I never did sexual intercourse, I was too young to know about it! How do I end up no longer being a virgin? Then my stepmom told me that my genitals were bleeding after staying with my birth-mom and her boyfriend at the hotel. That’s when I realized that I was raped and pieces of what happened that night came rushing back as I grew older.
After you speak up, what kind of stigma or judgment have you received from people around you?
Oh, so many! If I write it down one by one, it would be so long, but what makes me sad is that the victim of sexual assault or rape is often be denied by their own family. Like they hide it from everyone because they think it's a family disgrace.
I've got a comment from a guy on YouTube when I first open up about it. He said, "It's your disgrace. Why are you telling this to anyone.." So, people still think that a woman's dignity only lies in her virginity. Once you are a victim, it's your disgrace. This is something that everyone should understand that we, sexual assault survivors did not choose to be raped and it is totally unfair to put the blame on us.
How have their words affected you?
It affected me physically and mentally. My menstruation cycle used to be bad, I just couldn't stop bleeding, and my doctor said it was because of the stress that caused a hormonal imbalance. Then, as time went by I became depressed, got diagnosed with a uterine tumor, and was pretty sick for over 14 years. I also used to have suicidal thoughts sometimes. So, I struggled a lot during my teenage life!
It must have been so hard for you to face it alone. How did you overcome it?
I seek help from a professional therapist to replace my parents' role to overcome my trauma and depression. She helped me a lot during my emotional healing process—everything I needed to feel the anger, sadness, pain, and accepting my past through journaling. From that process, I learned to love myself more.
That’s why I created my YouTube channel to educate everyone on mental health and how important it is to feel your emotion.
We both knew that in Asia, we have a very judgmental society. Why do you think people still judge someone else's condition or decision?
I think why they still judge someone else's life is because they always judge themselves first. It's kind of a habit! Since they were kids, they were also continuously being judged by others. So basically, we're victims of victims. That's why when people see a victim of sexual assault, they always assumed... Oh! This girl is broken like a bottle that has been unsealed.
1 in 3 women have experienced sexual assault in Indonesia, most of them are still receive unfair treatment from their inner circle, and it's affected their mental health. Now, it’s time to give a voice to the voiceless and support the survivors.
Everyone has their own struggle. Let's be kind by not giving judgment to our close ones. Watch and share this #whatsHERstory video on social media to support each other.