I know the daily news about another man in power being accused of sexual harassment or assault is overwhelming and disorienting.
This is new territory for all us.
I’ve watched some of my own favorite celebrities fall over the past few weeks.
It’s a confusing and weird time.
Sometimes your first thought might be “Why didn’t the victim say anything back then?” or “She/he is jumping on the bandwagon” or “Oh, get over it. It happened 20+ years ago!”
It’s normal to question what is laid in front of you, but I’m writing to you in hopes of shedding those questions and replacing them with understanding, empathy and anger.
As a person who was on the receiving end of deeply humiliating and dehumanizing sexual encounter in Hollywood, I want to add my perspective on some of the questions you may have.
Why didn’t the victim say anything back then?
There are a plethora of reasons why a victim may not come forward at the time:
- Fear of assaulter using their power to kill victim’s career
- Fear of assaulter using power to sue victim for speaking out
- Fear of assaulter using power to get other friends in power to shun victim
- Fear of private life being dragged through mud
- Fear of loved ones being affected by news coming to light
- Fear of people judging you and calling you horrible names if news comes to light
- Fear of not getting jobs if news comes to light
- The thought that no one will believe you
- The thought that not only will no one believe you, but they’ll call you “disgruntled,” like what Jeffrey Tambor said about his former assistant who privately stated on Facebook that he harassed her
- The want to move on and not have this horrible time consume your life
- The feeling that you somehow deserved it/caused it.
For me personally, many of these truths still apply. I’m fearful of my aggressor, and I’m worried about the Pandora’s box coming forward could open.
She/he is just jumping on the bandwagon.
As you can see above, there are a variety of reasons why people do not come forward at the time. The reason why they are coming forward now is because of the brave victims before them who paved the way. The door has been opened; people are listening — finally. Though I’m not sure I will ever come forward with my own story, I now know that I could come forward and will be supported. This is a momentous achievement for victims.
It takes an incredible amount of courage to be the first person to come forward. For years, brave victims like Rose MacGowan have been called “crazy,” “unhinged,” “spiteful,” “ugly” etc. because they dared to speak publicly about predators in Hollywood. Now women and men can come forward without the fear of society at large looking at them like they’re “disgruntled,” though the victims still have to deal with strangers defending their aggressor or telling them to suck it up.
If you think money or fame are the driving forces to coming forward now, I encourage you to ask yourself, “What does the victim get by coming forward?” In my opinion it’s very little. Victims still risk humiliation, bullying, losing work, being called names and being shunned. I assure you that most victims are motivated by wanting to warn others and hoping to bring change in an industry that is deeply rooted in misogyny.
Oh, get over it. It happened 20+ years ago!
I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I can say that most of us have gotten over it. We’re strong; we move on with our lives. But again, we are empowered now to share our stories. Even if we have gotten over it, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t somehow affected us. For me personally, I was very angry and lost during my experience. I drank heavily to deal with the pain, and went to therapy in order to overcome the pain. Fortunately I moved on and now view that experience as something that made me stronger. It also made me empathize with victims and believe them.
If you do find yourself thinking “For crying out loud. Get over it!” I sincerely hope you or your child or a loved one never have to experience the fear, anger and sadness that can come with sexual harassment or assault, particularly from someone you trust or look up to. If you find yourself struggling to understand the victim’s point of view, please take the time to talk with the victim. Listen to their story. Open your ears and heart.
Change is happening whether you like it or not, and you have the choice to be on the right or wrong side of history.