Silence perpetrates the abuse. Whether it comes in the form of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct or sexual assault, most women have experienced it in one form or another. The statistics I learned long ago in my sexual assault crisis counselor training are that one in every three women are a victim of sexual abuse. Those numbers only represent those who have spoken, been heard, and tallied. Everyone reacts in their own unique way. Not everyone speaks. We cannot presume to know how each woman feels.
I was thinking it was time for me to find my voice. #metoo I happened to run into a female friend at the post office this morning who echoed my very thoughts, that abuse of women is normal. It has become a way of life.
For me, it started in childhood with my family and then it was reinforced in school and work. It mattered not what type of job I had whether a waitress in a pizza parlor or a prosecuting attorney. It is pervasive everywhere. “Normal”. Surely, it is not a good normal. I, like many, have been hoping it would change.
What I know from my own personal experience as well as working with other women, is that sexual misconduct whatever its form, affects us intricately. It is insidious, a thread that winds itself through so much of who we are. It can affect everything from our body image, our self-esteem, our judgment, our confidence, job performance, our relationships and so much more. Each woman must choose for herself her own unique healing journey, hopefully, back to wellness and wholeness.
We have learned to be silent because it has never really been safe to speak up. We are often blamed and not taken seriously. Sometimes speaking up can even cause further abuse.
I am speaking only to the abuse of women because it is my perspective from who I am.
No matter what form the abuse has taken it is a violation to a woman. It is additional abuse to minimize it. It is additional abuse to discount it. It is additional abuse to silence her. It is additional abuse to do nothing.
The day that Donald Trump became president despite allegations of sexual abuse was a very dark day for me. It indicated how far we have yet to travel in the fair and just treatment of women. I personally felt violated and unsafe once again. If this conduct was not a bar to service in the highest office in the country how can there be any hope at all.
What has been in the news lately about women coming forward and being heard is surprising. Not that there are so many of them. Not that it is present in all walks of life. But, that something is finally being done about it.
It has occurred to me that perhaps we (as a people) really did need to go about this the hard way. Perhaps it had to get so bad and patently obvious that there was no denying it any longer.
All through my life when I heard a report of a woman being harmed and not being honored it felt like a personal affront. I felt each time it happened that it proved how much I deserved all I had experienced at the hands of men who had the power and authority to hurt me.
Over the years of my own healing journey, I have come to understand that the opposite is true. When a known abuser was acquitted, or transferred rather than fired, or elected to high office, it did not reflect upon me at all.
I know now with absolute certainty that I matter. My thoughts and feelings, my body and my choice, all matter. I deserve honor and respect. All beings do.
Ellen simplifies the sentiment so profoundly when she reminds us to be kind to one another. It is not hard to do. All spiritual practices and religions encompass some form of the creed to do unto others. It is a good place to start.
Breaking the silence is a wonderful beginning. We must never underestimate the power of the woman.