As the past few months have progressed and multiple women who were victims of trump and other high profile men's sexual harassment and assault have come forward to bravely share their stories of survival many people have asked, why now? Some have even accused the women of having political or attention seeking motives. As a survivor, one who kept secrets for years, I find my heart aching every time I see one of those posts condemning women who are braver than you will ever dream to be.
At its very core sexual harassment or assault are associated with secrecy and shame. It shouldn't be, but it is. Our perpetrators prey on that shame and fear. They thrive in secrets while we lay dying inside. I know this because I have been there. I've been there far more than I ever wanted to be. I didn't tell either...until...
I was sexually abused by a cousin for years, I didn't tell anyone. He threatened me frequently and I knew enough of my family to know that secrets were how we operated, so I suffered in silence...until...
I had gotten away for a few years and there came an occasion when I would have to be near him again. By that time I had people I trusted enough to say something to. When I literally ran from a room when I encountered him, they asked me questions and let me know I was safe and it was ok to talk. And so I told, a few people, a few things, enough to keep me from being in that situation.
A few years later he was stupid enough to send me a Facebook friend request. As I sat staring at his photo I realized he was playing drums, in a church. My stomach turned. I became angry and terrified all at once. What was once something that I thought was only my problem was suddenly very different. If he is in church, if he is on the ministry team, then he has power. I spent a great deal of time hunting that church, and then I sent them a message. I told them. I told them years later when he was no longer a threat to me, not out of bitterness, not trying to destroy his life, not with any malicious intent at all. I told because I saw that other young girls were now in danger of being hurt by him too. To be quiet was to be no better than those who didn't protect me.
I was also sexually abused by my father. He died in 1990 of suicide. You want to know when I finally said something? In 1996 at a youth rally when another brave person shared their story and I saw as hundreds of women came forward for prayer because someone had hurt them too.
But again, a few people, and a few things, because all of it was overwhelming and I saw daily that women who come forward are bullied, harassed, questioned ad nauseam and then blamed. Coming forward is, or feels ,far more scary than living with secrets.
You see, I already survived what happened, and I survived living every day with secrets, but adding bullying, condemnation, accusations, and public shame to that? I was terrified it would break me.
Women come forward when they feel safe, when they see they are not alone, when they are more afraid than ashamed, or when they see that someone has the ability to harm others. Sometimes that is right away, though usually, it isn't. Most often, it is never and that is truly heartbreaking.
I am so very proud of the women who have come forward. I know how very difficult that was. I have also been called a liar, a whore, a crazy attention seeker. People blamed me too. They came running in defense of my abusers when they never took a step for me.
Please know I think you are amazing. Thank you for being brave, for trying to protect, for letting other women know they are not alone.