Why now? Why # me too? Why are people surprised that sexual assault is painfully common and that women are silenced?
For years as a trauma therapist I observed how those who were abused by someone they depended on or loved, learned to minimize or normalize cruelty and mistreatment. They feel shamed and unworthy, unable to hold those accountable who hurt them — people who are dangerous, disturbed or seriously impaired and who have power over them.
Few women do not have a story to tell about sexual assault with details that their mind and body remember. Judith Herman (Trauma and Recovery) speaks of the history of human atrocities, traumatic events that are by human design, as vulnerable to periods of episodic amnesia. We remember and forget, willing and unwilling to bear witness. Is that it? Have we moved into a window of knowing, of bearing witness to sexual assault and sexual harassment, shedding years and decades of not knowing, of collective amnesia of refusing to believe women?
Perpetrators are both strangers and people we treasure.It is difficult to see the parts of them that injure their daughters, their students, and those who have placed great trust in them? Betrayal without a chorus of other voices can be more than one can bear.Truth telling is courageous and often painful. I adored my father the ways people adore Louis C.K. and Al Franken, the ways we trust our bosses and our mentors.
Accountability, as we are beginning to see, shifts the imbalance of power. This is the glimmer of hope. Accountability curbs our history’s favorite perversion of blaming the victim for the trespasses of others.This new awakening is still on thin ice. Many will want to distract, to soften or change the narrative to something more palatable.
I hope the momentum will continue. That this is not just a moment but a movement. That allies will speak loudly and be mindful of their abuse of power and women’s dignity will be lauded. That bystanders will refuse to close their eyes and be silent.
I want to refuse to muffle truths that can continue to move us out of complacency and complicity.
Are we emerging from a trance that protects abusers and silences the victims?
I hope so.