Over the past few weeks, similarly to many of you, I have had numerous conversations with those in my life about the increasing number of allegations of sexual harassment and abuse being reported in the media. The conversations ranged from relief that women are finally being heard and believed to shock over the prevalence of sexual misconduct to many outraged who believe that women are taking *this* too far.
I have been working with trauma survivors for 15 years and I have spent many years as a sexual assault team response member. I am also survivor of sexual violence (#MeToo) . From both a personal and professional perspective, I can unequivocally say that when you are sexually violated, your world is forever changed. Your safety, your relationship to your body and the way you approach intimacy is influenced in a profoundly significant way that affects everything in an individual's orbit.
I believe we are all in this together and it's important to remember that fact, particularly during this sea change in our society. I have worked with perpetrators before, because I believe healing is needed for everyone. With that being said, can we please stop normalizing or dismissing abusive behavior? We need to resolve that many of those that we love and admire have also done awful things. The only apology and means that I can see to move us forward is to fully commit to changed behavior and that all begins with awareness. If you are of the opinion that men are being judged too harshly, I would ask you to really and honestly look at why you are feeling the need to protect those who have violated someone’s safety, notably when there are numerous accusers, an established pattern of behavior and verifiable facts to back up victims who are courageous enough to come forward.
Perhaps we can all use this time to look at ourselves and commit to better behavior and to holding those around us to the same standards. Since excusing and minimizing violence is never the answer, below I have included 4 tips on how we can all practice being an upstander when we are bearing witnessing to someone who might be in danger. Let’s all come together and look out for each other. It is my hope, that we can begin again from a place of no tolerance for harassment and/or abuse.
Trust your instincts If a situation or person doesn’t feel “right” to you, trust your gut and get more information, ask for help and take action. More often than not, our first instinct is the correct one. Trust yourself!
See yourself as being part of the solution. Thinking only gets you more thoughts! Therefore, take action by asking someone if they need help, finding someone of authority to intervene or calling for help. We are all in this together. Acting on your instincts can save lives.
Ask the right questions Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble. If you are apprehensive to speak to someone alone, ask an authority figure and/or others to come with you. However, make sure the person in potential danger is in touch with someone who can help. When people look like they are in trouble, ask if them if they are ok, do they need help getting home or can you call someone for them.
Call for help
Safety is always first! If you are questioning your own safety or the immediate safety of another call 911 or 1-800-lifenet. It’s always better to be overly cautious than avoiding action and having someone’s life be at risk. I can’t say it enough. Let’s look out for each other!