October 2018 marked one year since #MeToo went viral.
It was a year when millions of brave women and men found their voice.
The allegations ranged from sexual harassment to rape, accusing celebrities, politicians, clergy, athletes, doctors, and the next-door neighbor. No private or public sector was spared. And the momentum continues.
#MeToo has given a voice to those who have lived in silence and suffering. For many, it is the first time they’ve told anyone that they had been abused.
Certainly many of those who disclosed their story were met with compassion and understanding. But far too many survivors are defeated with the questions:
Why didn’t you tell?
How could you remember after all these years?
What were you doing, wearing, drinking the night this happened?
Just the fact that these questions are raised tells us of the complexity of being a victim of sexual abuse and the need for discussion and education on this explosive topic.
The good news is, after centuries of being taboo, the topic of sexual abuse has found a forum in the newspapers, daily news broadcasts, and television talk shows. Victims are being listened to and the diverse background of abusers is being exposed. We can be grateful that #MeToo has cracked open that door.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, a secret I held for 40 years, I am deeply moved by the progressive steps we are taking. Since my “Me Too” moment in 2001, I’ve undergone extensive therapy, written a book, Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse, and participated in public speaking engagements on the topic.
Anyone familiar with my past would surmise that I am thrilled that victims are finally opening up, being heard, and, for many, being believed.
Yes, my initial reaction elicited a positive, emotional response. We are finally going to talk about this dark secret kept by so many men, women, and children. Maybe this will be the change we need to put an end to abuse. But after following every bit of media coverage I could find, I am now left with the feeling that there is a gaping hole in the story. Now I ask the question: What next?
Who is explaining to the general public the horrific consequences of abuse? Where are the experts explaining the difficult concept of repressed memories or the debilitating pressure to keep the abuse a secret? Where are the articles and shows sharing resources for those who have been abused? And the most important question: Who is offering hope that a victim can heal, reclaim their life, and be made whole?
The media’s lack of initiative in answering these questions leaves me disappointed. We need to do more for the brave souls who have come forward and for those still living in silence. #MeToo is a monumental step in the right direction, but it is not enough. Survivors need understanding, help, and hope.
In doing research for this article, I found my ray of hope. Tarana Burke, the originator of the “Me Too” movement over a decade ago, is now continuing her mission to connect survivors with the appropriate resources needed to heal. She will be launching a series of public service announcements, creating a website for survivors, and more. It’s a start, and one that inspires me to turn my disappointment into action.
I’m asking all of you to accept a call to action. Here are a few suggestions:
>> Go to your local library, civic group, place of worship, yoga studio, or university and request that they have a guest speaker to talk about resources available for survivors.
>> Share stories of hope and healing for those who believe there is no hope.
>> Educate the general public on the effects of abuse, or any topic related to understanding and healing.
>> Take this a step further and encourage media outlets to include psychologists and therapists, broadening their exposure from the latest celebrity accused of abuse to actually helping the abused.
>> Make it your business to learn about available resources, such as RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) or your local office of victim services. You never know when you will have the opportunity to share this information with someone in need.
#MeToo has been an enormous step in exposing the prevalence of sexual abuse and opening up the topic for survivors, friends, and families. But it isn’t fair to the countless victims to stop here.
Help, healing, and understanding are all possible if we make it known that this is what we need and that this is the next step.