Look, I don’t know whether Tara Reade is telling the truth. As I scroll through all of the comments on my Twitter feed in regards to her allegations, I find myself experiencing a mixed range of emotions and one question continues to pop up in my mind. I wonder if the women who are currently coming forward accusing politicians/celebrities are helping or hurting the victims who have not yet found the courage to come forward.
As a trafficking survivor of multiple sexual assaults, I remained silent for more than 2 decades. I know the pain of complex emotional trauma that results from both the assault and remaining silent. I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy.
Women being dragged through the court of public opinion after coming forward is nothing new. However, now the public has multiple outlets and much larger audiences. The woman makes the accusation, the accuser denies the allegation. Cut to tweets, hashtags, memes, innuendos and judgements. Think about each of the cases against Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and President Trump. All three of these cases began with one woman coming forward. In each case, the initial woman was immediately dismissed as a liar by the accused men. As more and more women came forward, the story evolved to being a smear campaign or women jumping on the band wagon looking for money, fame or revenge.
With this pattern of accuse, deny, accuse, publicly judge… if you were a woman holding a sexual assault secret, would you be willing to put yourself in this dubious spotlight?
According to RAINN.org 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted). Only 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. That means about 3 out of 4 sexual assaults go unreported. The saddest truth is, out of those 1,000 sexual assaults, 995 perpetrators will walk free.
As a non-famous assault survivor, I can honestly say that the most healing thing I did was share my story. Sadly, I admit with the scrutiny of accusers and the public in today’s social media environment, if I were faced with the decision now of whether or not to come forward, I am not sure what I would do. I question whether speaking out at this time would be too high of a price to pay for my own peace, even knowing that telling my story was what allowed me to begin healing
After all this, I wonder; how do we support the 770 sexual assault survivors, who are not coming forward? How do we make it safe for them to speak? How do we prepare them for the inevitable judgement?