Dear men and women of the world,
You may have seen the news overflowing with reports of abuse and harassment involving Harvey Weinstein. I mean really, who hasn’t? It really is everywhere.
You may have also seen the hashtag ‘#MeToo’ crop up once or twice on your social media, where some victims of sexual abuse or harassment try to come together under one heading whilst showing the world that it IS okay to speak out. Of course there probably was thousands of people who chose not to take part in that hashtag due to it reminding the victims of their abuse – that is okay too!
What’s NOT okay is the victim shaming.
What’s NOT okay is people commenting on posts with; ‘it was only just a kiss, stop throwing your teddy out the pram’.
What’s NOT okay is comment after comment with words along the lines of; ‘why are they just coming out with it now? or ‘yet another one jumping on the bandwagon to accuse someone of abuse – attention seeker!’ or ‘why didn’t they report it at the time instead of waiting years to say something?’.
I am hoping that if you’re reading this post, you know fine well why the above are far from okay. But if you don’t know why, then just this once I will humour you by saying:
Firstly, victim shaming is not okay. When people respond to a post asking what the victim was wearing, or what they did to attract the abusers attention in the first place etc, that’s pretty much telling the victim that they DESERVED their abuse/harassment.
Let me ask you this – if I were to walk down the street with a short skirt, high heels and a strappy top on and a man/woman decided to make non consensual advances towards me (e.g. groping, sexual talk, requesting sexual favours, rape, kissing etc), would you tell me that I DESERVED that because of what I was wearing? Would you tell me that I was ‘asking for it’ because I chose to not wear jeans and flat shoes and cover up every inch of my body?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing religious clothes, party wear, your pyjama’s or even your birthday suit; if you have NOT consented to another person touching you or making advances towards you then it IS deemed harassment/abuse. No MEANS no. No-one is ever asking to be abused or harassed by another person, regardless of whether a 4×4 piece of skin is on show. No…just NO.
Secondly, my next point is what prompted me to write this post actually. A newspaper reported that a lady has made an allegation about Patrick Swayze. Now we all know that he is dead so no, she wasn’t meaning that he abused/harassed her from the grave. This lady said how Swayze forcefully kissed her without her consent, just moments after discussing his wife on the show. The lady then proceeded to explain how she DID mention it to her boss (who was a woman) at the time and she was fired. Yes, you heard me correctly. SHE was fired. Whilst that story didn’t exactly prompt my post, it was a comment on that news report which did. A comment which said ‘it was only a kiss! stop throwing your teddy out the pram and let the man RIP’. Really? Tell me folks, how is that okay? How is making someone’s situation out to be trivial and ‘just a kiss’ deemed a suitable response? Yes the man is dead, and no he cannot defend himself. But should his death and status in Hollywood at the time, make the alleged abuse any less serious? If it was only ‘just a kiss’, does that mean anyone can walk into the street and forcefully kiss someone on the lips as it’s ‘just a kiss’, whether they wanted it or not? NO! If one person dictates a situation where it makes you any way uncomfortable, the other person should respect that and stop. One person agreeing to do something does not make the action consensual. So no random stranger, it isn’t ‘just a kiss’.
Thirdly, this one is getting my back up something chronic. In regards to the Weinstein case, there has been a flurry of victims coming out saying that they have suffered some form of abuse or harassment by that man. Many of those victims have openly said how their careers were then affected once Weinstein was told ‘no’. Many of those victims have said that they felt as though they couldn’t tell anyone because they were frightened, lonely and afraid of losing everything they have worked for. Many of those victims have admitted to burying their heads in the sand in fear that they wouldn’t be believed due to how influential Weinstein was in Hollywood. So of course the keyboard warriors came out in force, trying to outshine DreamWorks ‘Trolls’ movie in 0.5 seconds. (Note – they failed. Trolls is WAYYYYY better movie than their 0.5 seconds of fame).
At first I saw comments of solidarity, empathy and anger towards the victims and the situation itself. Then in no time at all I came across comments which began to make me feel incredibly sick. Comments such as ‘attention seeker! why are you coming out with it now?’ and ‘jump on the bandwagon why don’t you!’ and ‘why didn’t you say anything at the time instead of waiting years to say something just to get into the news?’. Those comments were found on the Reese Witherspoon abuse news report so I dread to think what others I had missed!
Let me tell you why comments like that make me feel sick. After getting sexually abused/harassed a victim is more than likely feeling ashamed, frightened, nauseous, emotional…you name it, they’re probably feeling it. Funnily enough, one of the top things on a victims list to do after being abused is going and telling someone. Your mouth becomes dry. You lose all feeling in your legs. You’re unable to form coherent sentences. All you want to do is hide away and sleep, hoping that when you wake up it all turns out to be a dream. Some victims may find themselves (depending on the level of abuse/harassment) having to get coached/therapy to build up the courage to tell someone about what happened. Multiple questions are likely to float around a victims head – ‘what if no-one believes me?’ or ‘what if they say I’m lying?’ or ‘what if they say I deserved it?’ or ‘what DID I do to deserve it?’, just to name a few. It is extremely scary to sit down with someone and say that you have been a victim of sexual abuse or sexual harassment. If in the unfortunate event the victim was raped, it’s not just a case of popping to your local police station for a brew and casually telling them what happened. They have a job to do and unfortunately, the victim’s body is their ‘proof’ as it were, so not only do they have to go through the chat, they also have to endure a physical examination after being non consensually ‘examined’ by an abuser.
When I read those comments asking why said person ‘didn’t come out with it sooner?’ it really did make my skin crawl because 1) for all we know the victim may have already done that and wasn’t believed at the time, therefore speaking out about it where a group of victims has already formed. Strength in numbers. And 2) we have absolutely no idea how the victim is feeling, what they went through and how emotionally (or physically) scarred they are from the event. Who are we to question someone’s abuse? Who are we to demand answers from a victim? Who are we to dictate when a victim should tell an authoritative figure about their abuse? Who are we to judge full stop?
Before anyone asks how I know all of the above, or decides to make an uneducated comment about what I have written; I am a #MeToo three times over. Not once. Not twice. But THRICE. Sexually abused at age 11 & 14, raped at age 21. The first two times I was a minor. Did I deserve it? No. Did I feel as though I deserved it? Of course I did. Do the scars still remain? Emotionally, yes.
Victims of abuse/harassment need empathy not judgement. If you have no idea what to say to a victim, admit that but give them a hug. Never, EVER pass judgement or victim shame a person who has found the courage to speak out their abuse, whether it was 1 year ago, 10 years ago, or 50 years ago. Abuse has no time limit. Abuse has no age limit. Judgement has a time limit and the time limit is up.
No means no. It really isn’t that difficult.
A victim of sexual abuse.