I’ve been reading and watching the news this last week and it’s gotten me to thinking…
While I am aware that men can (and have been) sexually harassed and abused, these thoughts are going to relate to women–primarily because I am a woman.
There have been lots of questions swirling around the allegations made, and I don’t want to get into the politics of them. What I do want to do is just simply share some thoughts and concerns they’ve triggered.
Some women remember very clearly every detail of the experiences. Others remember only bits and pieces–sometimes because of the trauma, other times because of other choices they made leading up to those experiences.
Why don’t women report when they’ve had these experiences? I can think of a few of the many reasons:
- For those whose experiences go back decades, they lived at a time when anything sexual just wasn’t talked about.
- They may have been afraid.
- They may have “learned” that it was their fault.
- They may have seen how other women were attacked and disbelieved and simply didn’t want to go through that themselves.
When women did come forward, the legal focus often fell on them.
- What were they wearing?
- Why were they in that place at that time?
- Were they drinking?
- How did they know for sure it was assault?
And on and on.
All the concern seemed to be for the man. What was this allegation going to do to his future?
But what about her? What about her future?
She was “damaged goods.” If she told a potential partner what she had experienced, what was going to be his reaction?
Somehow she wasn’t seen as a “real” person. What the assault did to her didn’t seem to matter. What was important was what the allegation would do to her attacker’s future.
Have things changed? Not really.
We still tend to focus on the impact the allegation would have on the person accused–and don’t seem to worry about the impact the experience has had on the victim.
We still find all kinds of reasons not to believe the accuser…or to find ways to make it her fault, either for the experience or for waiting so long to come forward.
I wonder what would happen if we saw every woman as a “real” person–as a mother, daughter, grandmother, sister… Would we react differently? Would we be more willing to truly listen without judgment? to consider the impact these experiences have had on them?
Would it change what we teach our sons? Would we finally put to rest the idea that “boys will be boys” who have the “right to make mistakes” as they’re learning how to be men, mistakes that impact significantly the young women they violate?
There are so many stories out there. They differ in details, in the amount that women remember. But they are there.
It’s time for us to listen.