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November 8, 2017

#MeToo

I am encouraged by the empowering wave of #MeToo and in response have wanted to write about the subject of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault for many weeks.  I have struggled to do so until now because there is so much to say and I have not known how to focus what I want to say.

I have decided to share a few thoughts and resources for now.  More in-depth discussion of particular aspects of these areas may come in the future.

A few comments that stood out to me and their links follow:

“And I guess that’s the second time in my life I gave a man the benefit of the doubt, and the first time in my life I took the blame for it being awkward when a guy was inappropriate with me.”   - Veronica Ruckh

https://totalsororitymove.com/literally-why-cant-i-say-metoo/

“We are trained not to see it, and we are trained to belittle it when it happens to us.” – Beth Woolsey

http://bethwoolsey.com/2017/10/me-too-but-i-didnt-realize-it-for-25-years/

A common reaction to unwanted sexual advances is the tendency to “turn off” our gut instincts, and dismiss feeling uncomfortable.  This happens both for those who receive unwanted sexual advances and those who are societal or literal bystanders.  A key to moving forward is learning to trust our intuition, be comfortable in our bodies again, and to take action.

When you are in a scary or unsettling situation, it is common to freeze.  Even if you were not able to stand up for yourself in the moment, what happened is not your fault.  You can reclaim that power now.  You can do that with the support of family and friends, a counselor, a pastor, and organizations such as RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network – www. rainn.org).  For those of you providing the support, the following article shares helpful ways to do so:

https://melmagazine.com/how-to-listen-to-women-when-they-share-their-stories-of-sexual-assault-3d5e3bba1659

If adults have a hard enough time labeling and responding to unwanted sexual advances, you can imagine how much more difficult it is for children.  Perpetrators often go to great lengths to “groom” children to make them feel comfortable and less likely to say something.Some common grooming behaviors:

  • Paying focused attention to the child and making the child feel special
  • Planning fun activities with the child that require them to be alone together
  • Platonic touching to get the child to be comfortable with their touch
  • Calling the sexual behavior a “game” and sharing secrets with the child to gain their confidentiality
  • See https://educateempowerkids.org/8-ways-predator-might-groom-child/ for more details

The most powerful ways to prevent children from experiencing sexual abuse include:

  • Having a respectful, supportive relationship with your child in which they learn good boundaries and know they can come to you with any problems
  • Teaching children to recognize grooming behaviors
  • Teaching children to trust their instincts and speak up
  • Be willing to separate yourself and your child from friends, family, and neighbors who display signs of grooming behaviors
  • Check out NCTSN’s information about child sexual abuse: http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/caring_for_kids.pdf
  • When in doubt, contact a counselor trained in this area, the Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline (800-96-ABUSE for Florida), and/or your local Child Advocacy Center (Gulf Coast Kids’ House: gulfcoastkidshouse.org for the Pensacola area).

A common denominator for both adults and children is that the sexual aggressor is in a position of power (or trying to exercise power) over those they are targeting.  It is time that as a society we say enough of this power-play.

The most important aspect for healing for both adults and children is to be believed and supported.  #MeToo is one powerful way that society as a whole is showing more belief in the reality of sexual abuse and providing more unconditional support for those who have experienced it.  Let’s make sure that this becomes the norm.

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