There has been a huge news story about a town that is about 45 minutes away from me. A woman firefighter was being harassed and even exposed to pornographic video during a training session while surrounded by the otherwise male only fire department. This blog will not be solely about that case but it is where I wanted to start because the reaction of the locals in the area is sadly very normal. They have largely supported the perpetrators! Rallies to support the men, death threats to the female victim… I want to act shocked but I am not. This is the world that we live in.
My experience has been the same. Even as recently as two years ago. After exposing a family member who did me great harm and being totally willing to provide proof, my entire family turned against me. I was called a sociopath, my proof was never looked at or heard, I was accused of trying to ruin people’s lives and relationships… The person who did the harm and continues to do harm still sits at the family table on holidays, has regular contact with everyone including the children (I did call the authorities to try to protect the children). This person has never been called names or been accused of lying.
I don’t tell you this for sympathy. I tell you because this firefighter is not alone in being victimized and then being blamed for it.
As a society, what are we teaching each other when the victim can still be blamed for causing their abuse? I know that many of my readers will understand this blog from the inside out. I know that so many of you have been horribly hurt and then also used as the scapegoat. It is viewed as though YOU are the problem.
Someone gets raped. Society asks “What was she wearing? Was she drinking? What did she expect was going to happen?”.
A child opens up to an adult about being abused. Society is mortified if it is a story in the news about some unknown child but if that child is actually coming to them with that information??? It is with a very heavy heart that I tell you that most of society will not believe the child. They don’t want to get involved. The child must be looking for attention.
As an adult, men and women try to finally break their silence on childhood abuse but since these same people are now also dealing with mental health issued that were very often caused by that abuse? It is easy to look at the abuser and see them doing well in life but here is this mentally ill person saying that they were abused…
Who do you think gets believed more often than not?
I kept my silence for years because whenever I broke my silence, I was blamed. Now that I refuse to stay silent, guess who gets the blame?
“Didn’t you tell anyone?” I tried. I put myself in harm’s way for nothing.
“Why didn’t you run away?” Seriously? It started when I was still an infant. Run to where?
“Didn’t doctors/teachers/social workers find out or try to help you?” Red flags were raised so many times that I am sure a satellite over Ontario can see the red flags with the naked eye but did any of them ever take it far enough to actually help me? No.
“Didn’t you speak out when you were older?” Sure I did! I told a counsellor at school. I spent a whole afternoon with her. I felt heard and cared for. I thought she might actually be my way out… until I left her office and she called my mother to tell her that I’d been in her office weaving wild stories and I needed help.” Yes, I am serious!
I also know that I am not alone. I hear this story in different words time after time after time.
Even when we do take it “all the way”, it is such a waste of time. Several years ago, one of my children pressed charges against someone whom we had accepted in to our family. This abuse went on for almost 2 years and included other girls. At least 35 other girls. The proof was insurmountable and he was found guilty of 9 counts of sexual assault, 1 count of forcible confinement, and another count of uttering a death threat. Know what he got for that? ONE YEAR PROBATION.
… and I got his middle finger and a smile as he left the courthouse.
If a mature, married, well-spoken, respected firefighter gets death threats in 2016 for speaking up and making people face the crap they caused? What do you think women learn from that? We learn to stay quiet.
I write this blog today because I want to offer another lesson.
Refuse to stay quiet. Refuse to allow others to shame you in to silence. You are not the one at fault here.
If you are in a good and stable place, stand up for yourself and do not back down. Even if no one believes you. There are people who do. They are just too afraid to admit it.
If you are in a vulnerable space but still wish to speak up? Do it anonymously or only to people whom you trust. Just do not allow that silence to smother you.
I no longer care who feels uncomfortable when I speak out. My silence allowed people to put me right back in to where I could be abused over and over again. Perhaps not as obviously but if you call someone a sociopath and refuse to even look at her proof then freeze her out of her family? That is abusive.
I have over 3,000 readers now so if the only thing we do today is refuse to allow others to blame a victim? Just one time? That will be over 3,000 stories that will be heard and believed. That story might even be your own… and I believe you. I will stand beside you. I will refuse to allow others to silence you.
What an amazing footprint we can have on the world if we each just affect one life. Your own or someone you know. Use the most powerful words that I have ever heard in my lifetime.
“I hear you and I believe you.”