In college, I was sexually assaulted by the guy who was in charge of my building. When I finally got away from him, I was terrified that it wouldn’t matter because he had a key to my room. (Later, I found out he had done the same with other women in my building.)
I never reported it because I knew no one would believe me. Also, because I went over to his place willingly, then changed my mind about being there while I was there. I said "no" a lot and tried to be playful about it because I knew he was stronger than me. I will never forget the fear I had going back to my room, barricading myself inside, and knowing he could come in as he pleased. And further, the terror I experienced as I saw him around campus while I continued my studies.
It didn’t matter that I went to see him willingly. It didn’t matter that I decided I wasn’t up for something that I originally thought I wanted. When I said "no" THE FIRST TIME he should have backed off. And I wish I had the courage to say something then as I do now.
The #metoo social media campaign has provided a trail for the mass expulsion of the violence women have been carrying around with them for too long. It has put a hot white spotlight on the cold, dark spaces of fear, rage, violence and pain.
It is important to hold space for survivors. While my story is much more "tame" than some of the horrendous experiences of sexual violence women and girls have endured, I felt safe to share it with my tribe. I knew no one would judge me, or make excuses for the guy. I received a lot of love and kind words from people.
There is nothing I can change about my experience - it happened and I’m (fortunately) emotionally distanced from it. So what can I do? What can other survivors do? To heal? To warn other women? To bring justice for the crimes committed against them? To reclaim the job opportunities lost to trauma and stress?
How do we create space for other survivors to begin or hasten their healing process? Here are a few ideas to get us started:
Anonymous Serial Sexual Predator List. Lists like this can be tricky because of the anonymity, however, they could save someone’s life or livelihood. A list like this kept by industry, by region, by state, would be a safe place for victims to share their abusers behaviors and warn others. It could also be a place for law enforcement to corroborate stories. Similar lists do exist, are helpful and can provide very useful background and warning for women (and men), ex. The Bad Date List.
Create and share a hand signal that alerts others if someone is a violent or sexually violent person.
Condemn and bury the "boys will be boys" excuse. We need to teach our boys and girls about consent and respect for personal space, as soon as possible. And start holding men accountable for their archaic behavior.
Create accelerator programs for women who are survivors of sexual assault and violence. Many women who experience these traumas have PTSD, depression, substance abuse issues, bankruptcies, failed jobs and relationships, etc. Crisis Centers often provide support services for women to begin healing: receive therapy, addiction counseling, financial courses,or whatever they need to get out of crisis mode. But what about those missed opportunities? What about that actress or screen writer that denied Harvey Weinstein’s advances and was black balled in Hollywood? She should get another shot.
Shark Tank for women entrepreneurs.
Angel investors should commit to investing HALF their money in women run and started ventures. Call it Affirmative Action for Investing.
Demand diversity. When boards and heads of companies are diverse (half men, half women, ALL nationalities) business is better. Products are better. People are safer. If The Weinstein Company had two women on the Board, would his behavior have been as pervasive?
Use our purchasing power. Support women owned companies and stop supporting ones that don’t stand and exemplifying diversity.
Push law enforcement to process the backlog of rape kits. There are thousands of backlogged rape cases that have not been processed because cops are too "busy" to deal with them. Survivors live every day wondering when they will get justice, how many other women their attacker has attacked, why they aren’t important enough to police. Police Departments are too busy? I call BS.
Innocent until proven guilty. Let’s start using that lens for sexual abuse and rape survivors. Let’s help them feel safe. Let’s show them we are with them and support them through their healing and getting justice. Instead of coming up with ANY excuse as to why they deserved to be raped or assaulted.
Put more lights in dark places. Literally. With all the technology that exists today, why are there creepy dark spaces for assaults to happen anyway? Let’s light up alleys and corners and hallways so abusers and rapists don’t have the darkness to creep in.
OUT them. If you know of someone who is sexually violent to abusive-stand up to them or report them. As long as you stay silent, they can and will hurt others. Your silence is complicity.
This article was first published on Milk.