To the Editor:
We are at a crossroads.
Allegations of sexual misconduct have been brought against Roy Moore, Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Ben Affleck, President George H. W. Bush, President Donald Trump, Charlie Rose, and too many more to name. We’re seeing and naming the hostility and violence many people have faced in silence for years. We have an opportunity now to address the issues of power and control that promote sexual violence and harassment. This is a moment that must turn into momentum – momentum to listen to survivors, to hold abusers accountable for their actions, to change systems that have allowed sexual harassment and assault to persist.
Despite my hope that we’ve reached a turning point, I’m disappointed to hear a number of questions repeated in the press, in conversations, and in our courtrooms.
Why did it take her so long to come forward?
Why didn’t he just laugh it off?
Why are they bringing this up now?
I’ve heard these questions asked of the women who allege inappropriate sexual conduct and assault at the hands of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore. I’ve heard them asked of actor Terry Crews who confronted his abuser in a powerful #MeToo story. I’ve heard them asked in our own community concerning the upcoming trial of the Kingston man accused of raping two young girls at a party in 2016.
These questions discount trauma that victims face in sharing their stories. They avoid facing the reality that disclosing abuse is often frustrating and leads to few real consequences for the abusive party. These questions let us avoid thinking about our role in upholding and preserving a culture of sexual harassment and assault. Asking these questions means asking why victims don’t respond the way we think they should.
Victims have the right to share their own story in their own words in their own time. Some disclose immediately. Some might never tell. Some might disclose decades after the fact. Any and all of these responses are valid. We must start by believing victims and supporting them, no matter when or how they choose to disclose their trauma.
At Safe Passage, we know survivors are the experts of their own stories. They are the best advocates for themselves. For all survivors of sexual trauma, please know we are a safe place to process and heal, and it is our mission to make the world a safe place for you.
Mary Ellen Schaid
Executive director of Safe Passage