The US election interested me far more than I had expected. And it’s result has upset me more than I’d expected too. I didn’t really think that America was especially relevant to me.
I’ve never spent any time in America, and never had any desire to do so. While many countries interest me, the USA doesn’t. I’ve got American friends, and one in particular who’s more like family, but the American friends I’ve made over the years were made in Japan, where I found that most foreigners enjoyed living in a blend of different cultures based on their own heritage, that of their host country, and of the new friends they made there. I don’t define them by their nationalities, in the same way that I don’t identify as being “British.” If I had to define my cultural identity, I’m British to a certain extent but with a strong Japanese influence, and there’s a little bit of Australian, American, Canadian, Irish, Swedish, and New Zealander in there. Thanks to the friends I made in Japan. I’m not especially interested in politics or politicians, of any country, including my two “main” countries. So I was surprised to find myself unexpectedly intrigued by the US election, and the moment when I became intrigued was when women came forward with accusations of sexual harassment.
Here’s why …
It takes an incredible amount of courage for anyone (male or female) to come forward with stories of abuse. Every time they have to even think about what happened, let alone retell it, they relive the experience. An experience they may have tried to block out, or be trying their best to “get over” … and by the way, you don’t get over abuse, if you work really hard you just learn to live with it. Even if it’s no longer happening in reality. Because you are triggered, regularly, by a phrase, the TV, a movie, a name, a place, a sound. And life becomes a way of dealing with each of those daily triggers.
Perhaps one day, you decide to come forward about what happened, because keeping it secret is no longer tolerable. Not for yourself, but for others. And because people urge you to come forward for the sake of those others. And because watching someone gain more and more power as they ooze a sense of entitlement and slither their way into a position of trust, is nauseating.
I read the stories of those brave women who came forward despite the further abuse and threats they would receive on top of publicly reliving traumatic experiences that they carry with them every day. My heart went out to them. And it touched a nerve because my heart went out to other women too … women I know because they eventually shared stories of how they had been targeted, harassed, and groomed by someone I used to know … someone who, unbeknownst to me, was actually known by others to be a harasser of women. And even though this harasser privately described himself as having a 20-year history of being, as he called it, a “sexual predator,” he would never admit this publicly. His victims didn’t go to the police, and instead chose to try to block the experience out. And who can blame them? We live in a world where victims are not believed. They are called liars and THEIR morals and mental health are questioned. And the perpetrators can go on to become people that society trusts and respects.
They can even become the President of the United States of America.
And when that happened this week, I felt sick to my stomach. And very, very sad. Purely because of how those women who came forward must be feeling. Those fears that keep victims from speaking out had been justified … “Nobody will believe me,” and even worse “Nobody cares.” And it can seem so incredibly unfair to watch abusers move on with life without being accountable for their actions, all the while probably lining up more victims. Just because they can. And it really does seem that nobody cares.
But to all those men and women who now have yet another reason to keep quiet about harassment and abuse, please, please know that there ARE people who will believe you, and there ARE people who do care. You are not alone. There will have been others. And when you start speaking out, those others will come forward too. The end result may not be what you hoped for, or what the abuser deserves, but you did the right thing by coming forward.
And if you’re still worried about being believed, remember this one thing … YOU know YOUR truth, and anybody that doesn’t believe what’s in your past, does not deserve one moment of your future.