Saturday, 18 February 2012

Unbeknownst to you...

you are among friends. And if you should come forward to tell the truth, we will believe you, support you, and think more, rather than less of you. Be brave, and trust us to be understanding. 

A friend of mine, having seen my Project Unbreakable post, recently wrote to me about another friend, who had been sexually harassed in the work-place. My friend said she:

... was talking me through it with the self-doubt and guilt that I never expected a strong woman like her to be experiencing. She is an [...], and seeing that the field is intimate, that kind of reputation could cost her any future aspirations- she could, basically, become unemployable ( her boss warned her). Very sad. 

Stories like yours need to be heard if anything is ever going to change.

Here is my reply, for the benefit of anyone who is going through a similar experience. Please know that there are innumerable others out there like you - silenced by the social stigma of the crime for which they were not guilty. 

...It's a very sad but true fact that grown women who face sexual predation often feel that to come out with their story would actually do they themselves more damage than good - especially in terms of career. It's very understandable, due to the stigma we have about sex, to feel shame and be convinced that no one will believe us, or that they will think we are somehow at fault for what has happened. Like you said, the only thing that can change this is if survivors united and turned the tide - but the first few will always be ones swimming against the current - ergo higher risk of drowning. But it ain't killed me yet.

Seriously though, I'm fortunate enough to not belong to an industry where my career can be thus jeopardized. I suppose I've finally found a good thing about not belonging to any particular industry at all - or having career aspirations....

Though I am happy to report that having spoken to many people who have come forward, we are more often than not pleasantly surprised by the amount of validation and support we receive from peers. Like Project Unbreakable reveals, there are many many among us. So who knows, perhaps your friend will one day decide to expose her abuser too. If and when, I hope she nails him dead to the door. One of my good friends... her boss harassed her... [but] she kept cool and collected enough evidence against him (both professionally, as he was a dodgy administrator, and criminally), to basically ruin the rest of his life...

Essential skills they don't teach girls, eh? We don't need to know how to be GOOD (read: obedient). We need to know how to be strong. 

Excuse the off-hand tone of most of this post. It was taken directly from my email exchange with a friend. Plus if I can't make light of something serious, well, I probably wouldn't be here, so that's that. I've also removed any mentions of names and specifics for obvious reasons.

With regards to the life of sexual predators being 'ruined,' as I so glibly put it - it's important to remember that they did it to themselves. For a very long time I debated whether I ought to come forward with the truth concerning my experiences of abuse. My abuser is a relative - and I know and love his children. A good deal of my teenage and young-adult years were spent on feeling burdened by the knowledge that their father is a pedophile. I felt like the keeper of a secret - and I felt responsible for protecting them. It took me many years to realize that if he wanted his kids to have a father they can be proud of, he should have done what was right rather than what was easy. 

In short, if you go around harassing and abusing those near you - then you have marred your life already, all on your own - whether those you victimize speak out or not. So do the right thing by yourself, those who love you, and those who come across your path - don't be a fucking shithead. 

Doing what is right rather than doing what is easy also basically sums up why I decided to take part in Unbreakable. For others like me out there, I encourage (though I would not say that I urge, as only you know what you need) you to do the same.