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Reflecting: Our Changing Environment

One year later.....

White River near Potter’s Bridge in Noblesville, IN 

A year ago I wrote an article about sexual abuse, which was predicated by the allegations of sexual abuse multiple women had made against then Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. I wrote it prior to the election.

One year later, sexual abuse allegations are in the news daily, primarily by people in the media. Allegations are being made each day against people in power by people who feel violated. In addition, fraternities on college campuses are changing their policies to help prevent sexual assault from happening related to fraternities and sororities.

My feeling is that the attention that sexual abuse and abuse of power is getting will help prevent people from abuse in the future. One of the main issues with sexual abuse has always been the stigma associated with reporting it. If we can take the stigma of being sexually abused or discriminated against away, I can only dream of the long term affects this could have.

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) who has worked with women who have been domestically abused and sexually violated for my entire career, we are in a monumental time.

Women who hear that they deserve to be sexually assaulted because they are attractive are hearing over and over that people with power think that it is their right…..as a person, to not be treated that way. If one or two people can be empowered enough to tell about the abuse they have experienced, maybe two or three more will feel empowered as well.

Maybe, this is a monumental time where people have gathered together to speak out against sexual violence. Maybe now is the time that lots of people will understand that there is nothing sexual about sexual assault. Sexual assault is about power and control.

And the more people who know that, the better.

This past weekend, on 60 Minutes, I️ watched a gymnast discuss the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of a person of authority, who is currently in jail for charges of child pornography. She mentioned that she did not realize that what he was doing was sexual abuse initially, and that as a person of power/authority she trusted him and his role in her training as a gymnast. Young people, particularly teenage girls, can be trusting in their interactions with adults who have authority over them.

USA Gymnastics has recently hired a firm to improve their image and reduce the risk of sexual assault. It is difficult to think about how many women have been sexually assaulted prior to this change in culture at USA gymnastics.

We are hearing in the media about women who were asked to participate in sexual activities by people in authority to them. We are hearing about actors who regret asking those they had authority over to touch their genitals or participate in sexual acts. Most people in mainstream media have a degree of attractiveness. We are seeing stereotypically attractive people admit to sexual assault, receive consequences for sexual assault, and come forward about experiencing sexual assault.

Then a lot of people who watch television, or read social media, are able to talk about how it is absolutely ridiculous to say that a woman has to participate in a sexual act to move her career forward because she has symmetrical features, which is visually pleasing and therefore attractive.

We are watching, in mainstream media, on the Today Show, on Good Morning America, and many other news programs, people talk about how someone who had power and control over them asked them to provide sexual favors or touched their genitals without permission.

We are watching actors lose their jobs from behaviors where they touched a teenager’s genitals. These teenagers are both men and women. We are seeing a man be kicked out of a company with his name on it due to accusations of sexual assault.

We are learning about college fraternities who have imposed restrictions on behaviors of college students who have not utilized consent in their sexual behaviors. We are watching a culture shift in what is acceptable in our televised media, and on college campuses

We are seeing universities discontinue fraternities, criminalize hazing behaviors, and I am hearing students discuss their disdain for the culture of sexual assault that has been permitted to occur in college fraternities. My prediction is that Fraternities and Sororities as we know them will cease to exist in the foreseeable future, largely related to the occurrence of sexual assault that has occurred there.

#metoo

This campaign took on a life of its own. Women are posting on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, about sexual assault or discrimination they experienced for being a woman. Woman after woman has typed, and continues to type #metoo, or even #me too, or even just ‘me too’.

I️ continue to see effects from this. This started during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Like it was an advertisement against Domestic Violence. Just this morning I listened to a segment on Good Morning America about how the #metoo campaign continues to unite people and empower them to tell their stories. I heard a story of an actor who recently came forward about his own experience with someone abusing their power over him and how it affected his career. This issue is not a gender issue or a race issue. It is about power and control.

This is about being respected for being a person….and women and men everywhere who do not feel respected as people, are being told by people in the media that they are, in fact, entitled to be treated with respect. And they are being told that by lots of different people. They are being told that they are worth respect, and they need respect, and that they do not deserve to be objectified.

We are hearing men who sexually assaulted or discriminated against women admit they were disrespectful to women. Not all are men, and not everyone is acknowledging the disrespect. But a lot of people are acknowledging their own mistreatment of those they had power over.

Woman and men who were abused 1 year ago, 5 years and, and even up to 40 years ago are speaking out about a sexual assault or abuse of power that happened to them about which they felt powerless.

They are describing what happened, and it is empowering people who were abused and felt powerless to talk about their abuse. The amount of time that it has taken people to report the abuse they experienced reflects on the stigma of coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse. The shame associated with being sexually discriminated against has been prohibitive to people who have experienced it. The fact that people are coming forward today, regardless of the amount of time since their perceived abuse, gives me hope.

This time is very important to me. As a therapist. As a woman. As a person. As a mother of boys who respect women. I know that my genitalia has nothing to do with my worth as a woman. And if one more person recognizes that too, well, then that’s one more person who recognizes that too.

I have hope that we can remove the stigma of sexual assault.

Originally published at www.linkedin.com

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