by Cha'koya Smith AWARE® Program Coordinator
Just as Domestic Violence Awareness Month kicked off in October, prominent actresses and other professionals in Hollywood began publicly disclosing their experiences of sexual assault and harassment with film producer, Harvey Weinstein. As more and more victims came forward, other men and women throughout the country have felt empowered to share their own stories across social media using #MeToo. The #MeToo campaign not only gave people a way to talk about a shared experience, it also led others, like Veronica Ruckh, to question why they couldn’t bring themselves to share their account of sexual assault even though they identified with the experiences of many.
In Ruckh’s article, “Literally, Why Can’t I Say #MeToo?” she details feelings of guilt and self-doubt with acknowledging her experience with sexual assault and rape. These feelings that are so common among victims of abuse, along with the fear of not being believed, can pose huge barriers to victims from coming forward to get the help they need. So how can we use this moment to support our friends and loved ones that may be suffering abuse reach out for help? Start the conversation.
Here are some talking points that you may find useful in navigating discussions on sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual abuse:
- Abuse happens in all communities. The Harvey Weinstein scandal dispels perceptions that certain people or communities are above or immune to abuse. Weinstein's socioeconomic status, education, and professional success did not preclude him from being a perpetrator of violence, nor did those same factors preclude his victims from experiencing abuse.
- It's about power and control. Some find it difficult to connect the dots between sexual harassment, sexual assault, and domestic abuse, but they are all about one person using certain behaviors to exert their power and control over another.
- Start by believing. When someone discloses abuse, our initial reactions can make the difference as to whether or not a victim will reach out for further help. It may be difficult to accept if you know the perpetrator, but
believewhat a victim has been brave enough to share with you, do not minimize the situation or their feelings, and offer to connect them to expert support resources, like JCADA. Further, avoid questions or statements that place blame on the victim and suggest that they did anything to deserve what happened. A validating and supportive response to a disclosure can be the key to opening the door to health and safety for our loved ones.
- #MeToo. The #MeToo campaign highlights the positive impact social media can have for raising awareness and building a connected community of survivors. Isolation is a powerful tactic used by perpetrators to cut off their victims from friends, family, and resources which makes it especially difficult to reach out for help. Seeing how many other people have undergone similar experiences and are willing to share their stories drives a feeling of social connection that can be incredibly healing. It further helps victims identify additional support systems in their own lives who they can turn to.
If you or someoneyou know is experiencing domestic or dating abuse, please contact JCADA forsupport on our confidential helpline: 1-877-88-JCADA (52232).