Throughout the past year, we have been overwhelmed with the number of women that have come forward to report sexual misconduct against the men in power. I have heard varying emotions, responses, and opinions regarding who’s to blame in which situation, but I hope that we can all agree that teaching our young women to speak up for themselves can only make us a more cohesive and safe community in the years to come. I have received several questions from people throughout this wanting to know why these women waited so long to tell someone of their experiences, if they were so traumatic. While no one’s experience is the same, here are a few things to consider when we attempt to oversimplify the act of speaking up against a perpetrator.
- Trauma often breeds shame: When something horrific happens to us, we have a deep desire to explain it to ourselves. This results in us looking inward to find a reason that WE did something to ask for it, deserve it, or promote it, thus resulting in shaming and blaming ourselves for the event.
- When we feel responsible for something, we tend to want to minimize the impact of it or even deny the event altogether. Research suggests after years of suppression or minimization, one can actually convince themselves to forget and block out a painful memory.
- People are often afraid of speaking out due to the threat they received during the incident. Retaliation and revenge from the perpetrator can be real fears.
- Don’t rock the boat mindset. Many people grow up in a family of origin that teaches them not to rock the boat or too shy away from conflict or anything that would make things more complicated in life. This life mantra is what has created so many passive-aggressive styles of communicating in society today. As a result, many people convince themselves that speaking up would only create more hurt and harm to their loved ones and they’d rather just deal with the pain alone.
There are many other personal reasons that people choose to stay silent until something like a #metoo movement has started. The truth is, unless we are in these shoes, we can’t possibly understand the challenges of speaking up. No matter how hard it is, speaking up against violence always takes true courage and bravery and often will save the next person of being another victim.