Let me begin by saying, I too have a #metoo story. In fact, I have several #metoo stories. I too am a victim of abuse. I use the term victim because those of us who have been hurt by abuse have been victimized, not because we live as victims. I am a survivor and a thriver. I have spent years working on myself and getting healthy. Now I fuel the energy of my pain into helping others and being an advocate. Just to be clear, being victimized is an action, not a title. If you want to call me something, I go by the titles of mom, wife, friend, boss, business owner, licensed therapist, or just Angie.
My first #metoo story is from childhood. I told a few trusted adults that I was being sexually abused. Unfortunately, my speaking out was met with disbelief, relentless questioning, requests for proof, lots of doubt, and even being told that I was misinterpreting harmless affection. What happened after that was that I shut completely down and quit talking about it. Since I stopped talking about it people assumed everything was resolved, everybody moved on, and I was forced to be around my abuser regularly. Finally at the age of 30 (no this isn’t a typo), I finally said no to being around my abuser. Why did I wait so long to say no? Because I didn’t know I had a choice. That may sound silly to some of you, but that’s how a victim thinks before they get empowered.
The other #metoo stories are just like a lot of yours. Some incidents happened as a teenager that left me violated. One in particular happened as an adult fresh out of college where one of the men at work liked to creep up behind me and seductively rub my shoulders. I was very vocal about him not doing this, asked him to stop every time, asked him to never do it again, even telling the boss. The abuser would laugh it off as if I were playing hard to get and the boss (who was a female by the way) told me that it was harmless and that he was just being nice. Nothing was done about it.
Why am I telling this story now? Because I want people to know how damaging it is to a person who speaks up and is not believed or the abuse is minimized. Worse yet, the person might be believed, but the abuser still gets elected, appointed, promoted, or gets to keep their position in the family or society.
I am appalled at the level of denial happening in our society. It is everywhere. It is our culture. We want to do what we want without dealing with the hard stuff. It is too hard finding another official to elect. It is too hard dealing with the family aftermath. It is too hard disciplining or firing that person with clout. So the bad behavior gets ignored or worse yet, rewarded.
My Disclaimer: As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, of teen sexual assault, of sexual harassment in the workplace, and of the secondary trauma of not being believed, I have something to say. Let me put a disclaimer on this. I am speaking from a unique place here. I am speaking from a hurt place as a multiple incident victim who has done many, many years of work on me personally with skilled therapists. I have healed tremendously to the point where I am unrecognizable from the abused little girl I once was. The place I speak from is also highly educated about people, how their brains are affected by abuse and neglect, and what it takes to heal, because this has become my specialty.
To the Abusers out there I say this: You hurt people because you think you are entitled and you have always been able to get away with it. But guess what? We women and men who have been your victims are many. We out number you and we have had enough. We are no longer going to allow you to abuse and get away with it. We will be speaking up and telling people.
Just because you have perpetrated other people does not mean you have to continue. You can choose to stop. You can choose to get help. Skilled professionals who have been trained in treating offending behavior are out there, in almost every large city. Please get some help and stop passing along the legacy of pain and hurt to others.
To the Deniers out there I have a different message: Deniers are just as bad and equally guilty as abusers. Deniers are people who are told that something bad has happened and do not believe. They think we victims have something to gain by accusing. Worse yet, they may believe us, but do not care. Deniers would rather see an official elected than deal with the real problem because the abuser supports their political agenda. Deniers would rather give the abuser a promotion or lateral position to get them away from the victim instead of reprimanding or firing them. Deniers sit idly by and let abusers continue hurting people because they do not want to deal with the problem. Deniers let abusers in a family system do what they want, still come to family events, or still hold an important place in the family while the victim has to be around them and swallow their pain. It is too hard to split the family up or make the abuser deal with the consequences.
If you have been a denier, you can redeem yourself. You can stop the denial and deal with the problem. You can still give the victim the support and validation they need. You can choose to do the right thing. Apologize and then give the victim in your life your moral support. Just be there for them. Believe them.
To the Deniers and Abusers:
Let me just clear up a common misconception. Victims do not make things up except in the movies or in very rare cases. Speaking up and coming forward takes more courage than you will ever know. Before victims say a word we are already scared that we will not be believed, that the whole thing will be turned around on us. When we speak up it is hard. We have to tell the story over and over again, relive the pain, defend ourselves, and explain why we are speaking up. So please do not tell me to keep my mouth shut. And please do not tell me I am making things up or that I misinterpreted what happened. And please, please, please, do not act like I am the crazy and unstable one.
Lastly, to all the victims out there, women and men: Do not back down now. There are many, many more of us than there are Abusers and Deniers. This is just the beginning. The tidal wave is coming. We are strong when we speak up, but we are much stronger together. You are brave and courageous and I believe you. Do not keep quiet. Tell your story. Speak up at work. Speak out against the elected officials who work for YOU and who have their job because it is their duty to represent YOU. Do not keep quiet about your boss, the Vice President, or President at work who is abusing their power. Say something and know that I and all the other victims believe you and support you.
Lastly, as a licensed clinician, here are some resources for all survivors, abusers and deniers to get help:
- Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)
- National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
- Sex Offender Resource
- Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA)
Post written by Angie Ridings, LPC