Sexual Harassment Victims Silenced
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Unfortunately sexual violence is so common. “In the United States, one in three women has experienced some type of sexual violence. (WomensHealth)” According to the EEOC, sexual violence is “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. (EEOC)” Although many cases go unreported (WomensHealth), in August 2017 there was around 40,000 reported sexual harassment cases. As time progresses, the number of reported sexual violence cases slowly increases (WomensHealth). The #MeToo movement emerging in October of 2017 brought 67,000 reported cases (WomensHealth). By November 2017, 72,000 people had reported being sexually harassed (WomensHealth). The #MeToo movement has been a big factor in why women are speaking out about sexual abuse. Furthermore, current policies and practices about sexual harassment cause women not to speak out.
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There are now actions being taken to provide support for victims of sexual abuse to speak out. According to Jason Horowitz, NYT reporter, “Finally, now many women will have the courage to come forward and denounce their abusers because of the #MeToo movement. (NYT)” For example, the #MeToo movement has helped so many women around the world because they feel they can be understood by people who are trust worthy. Horowitz also states that, “there have been priests and bishops who have committed sexual abuse against nuns, and that it’s continuing because it’s not like once you realize it that it stops. (NYT)” He said the church needed to do more (NYT). In the Catholic Church, you find patriarchy everywhere you look. According to Jamie Manson, national Catholic reporter, “The Catholic Church may not have invented patriarchy, but it has certainly sanctified it. The patriarchal system that allowed famous actors, producers and newsmen to move about like gods is not much different from the patriarchy that has for centuries told priests that they are divine, exceptional men, set apart to rule over a lowly and lost laity. (NationalCatholicOnline)” The lowest level of people are the nuns who are women. As you go higher up in importance of the church, the more males you find in higher patriarchal positions. The Catholic church is a significant example because when nuns speak out, the people they tell are the priests who are supposed to be a trusted source. Manson also states that, “When the predator finally strikes, the victim becomes disorientated — a trusted, admired other has violated her. Sexual acts happen swiftly, sending the victim into a haze of confusion or freezing her ability to move or to determine what’s okay and what’s not in that one moment. (NationalCatholicOnline)”
Victim blaming devalues women and makes them believe that they have done something wrong, therefore they don’t speak out. About one in three women in the United States are sexually mistreated and are victim blamed (Southernct). An example of victim blaming in today’s society is when a guy tries to justify his actions by saying “she asked for it!” Men will say, because a women wore certain clothing or acted in a way where she looked like she needed help, that it justifies their actions. Southern Connecticut University also states, “By labeling or accusing the victim, others can see the victim as different from themselves. People reassure themselves by thinking, “”Because I am not like her, because I do not do that, this would never happen to me. (Southernct)”” Researchers believe that victim blaming is just the “human desire for fairness. (Southernct)” This is because it is hard for humans to see other humans as not okay, so we try to make explanations of why the incident would never happen to us.
Many women do not speak up about sexual abuse because they are protecting themselves. Fear of repercussions is a real obstacle women face when it comes to reporting sexual abuse (HandbookofChildSexualAbuse). In a case of a young women in her first job being sexually harassed by a co-worker or boss, she feels that if she speaks up she could lose her job. The young women feels like she is not in a place of power to be believed, so she will not speak out about it in fear of the repercussions (HandbookofChildSexualAbuse). Another case one might find a women fearing repercussions is if a father sexually abuses a daughter. The daughter does not want to speak out in fear of splitting up the family and possibly losing loved ones. Fear of retaliation is also a real obstacle women face when it comes to reporting sexual abuse. Sexual harassers often threaten the lives, jobs, and careers of the victims. “Those who have reported sexual harassment or assault, especially by powerful men, have reported that they lost their jobs, and that their careers or reputations have been destroyed. (HandbookofChildSexualAbuse)” Women are trying to protect their lives, jobs, and careers therefore they do not speak out.
Women let the victim blaming exist because they feel embarrassed or shameful. Most women who are sexually abused feel ashamed (Psychology Today). According to Psychology Today author, Beverly Engel,“Shame is at the core of the intense emotional wounding women and men experience when they are sexually violated. (Psychology Today)” Victims believe that what happened was their “fault” and that they are “bad people” (Psychology Today). Beverly Engel added that people who have been sexually abused usually feel “shame,” because as “human beings,” we want to . U.S. News author, Susan Milligan, explains that “When that personal power is challenged by a victimization of any kind, we feel humiliated. (U.S. News)” Truth is that we as human beings do not have power over what happens to us in most cases, so we become humiliated.
One effect that can cause silence in women after being sexually harassed is loss of future sexual intimacy. For some women it can be traumatizing to relive any sexual contact especially if they were raped. According to University of New Hampshire sociologist David Finkelhor, PhD, “an estimated 20% of women and up to 5% of men in the United States were abused sexually as children. When those abused as children try to form adult romantic relationships, they can be affected by anxiety, depression, and poor self-esteem. Some have no sexual desire; others may have a high sex drive. The history of abuse can also test the partner’s limits of patience and understanding. (WebMD)” But some researchers and mental health experts say that there are steps partners can take to help surpass these difficulties.
Another effect that could cause silence in women after being sexually harassed is depression and anxiety. If a women is depressed then she might feel ashamed and pull back from society. Anxiety causes the survivors to fear the act could happen again. According to GoodTherapy.org, “Some may experience panic attacks. Others may develop agoraphobia and become afraid to leave their homes. In some cases, a survivor may develop a chronic fear of the type of person who harmed them. Someone who was raped by a tall, fair-haired man with blue eyes may instinctively dislike, mistrust, or fear all men who match that description. (GoodTherapy)” If a victim has been affected by depression, then their “self esteem” will plummet (GoodTherapy). Self esteem is confidence in one’s self, and not having that confidence can cause silence.
One of the most asked questions is, does trauma play a role in why victims do not speak out? According to “Does trauma memory play a role in the experience of reporting sexual assault during police interviews?” author, A. Hardy, the answer is yes. Hardy explains, “Memory fragmentation was associated with participants indicating that they provided more incoherent accounts of trauma during police interviews. (PubMed)” In another article, “Does trauma memory play a role in the experience of reporting sexual assault during police interviews?,” author A. Hardy, explains that “Importantly, people who viewed themselves as providing more incoherent accounts predicted that they would be less likely to proceed with their legal cases. (TandFOnline)” “Trauma” can cause “memory fragmentation” and this can make it harder to proceed with the investigations because the police will not have the correct information needed (TandFOnline).
Many famous celebrities have been sexually abused, what took them so long to speak out? A famous actress, Lili Reinhart, used the #MeToo on social media to share her story. She says that, “she had not spoke out earlier because she was afraid she would lose her job or that people would think she is a drama queen. (If Anyone Is Listening)” Another actress says that she did not speak out because talking about what happened to her was like “reliving one of the worst moment of her life. It meant recognizing her attacker’s existence and all she wanted was to forget he could ever walk on this earth at all. (If Anyone Is Listening)” Perpetrators try to “control” the victims with fear and lies (If Anyone Is Listening). They try to help the victim cope and think that what they did is okay. So famous perpetrators like Harvey Weinstein, used coping mechanisms to keep his victims silent. He also used non-disclosure agreements to silence his victims.
You may ask how much is the #MeToo movement really helping? The answer is quite a bit. As you saw in the beginning, after the movement was released, it took off. Women everywhere who were sexually abused feel more confident about themselves. Women essentially have been taught that anything that comes with sexual abuse is just part of being a women. The #MeToo movement is a women’s movement that helps every voice be heard rather than just the famous one’s.“It turns out that roughly two-thirds (65 percent) of U.S. adults who use social media said they regularly see posts that relate to the topic. (If Anyone Is listening)” Twenty-nine percent of that group said a great deal of what they see on the social networking sites is focused on the issue, “”The hashtag has had an extraordinary impact because it shows the ability of women and survivors of sexual harassment and violence,”” said Kathy Spillar, executive director of Feminist Majority, a women’s advocacy and policy research organization. U.S. Today author, Dalvin Brown, explains “”It has taken an issue that was whispered about in workplaces and given it a forum. It has made it possible for people to speak out. (U.S. Today)”
Women are usually the victims when it comes to sexual abuse because they are the subordinate gender in society (Gender inequalities in the workplace: the effects of organizational structures, processes, practices, and decision makers’ sexism). Men are usually in leader roles for example, work, politics, CEO’s, and the heteronormative relationship (Gender inequalities in the workplace: the effects of organizational structures, processes, practices, and decision makers’ sexism). The only people women can report to is men in most circumstances and that becomes an issue because men are doing the abuse. Women find themselves not being believed when they report sexual abuse to men. They also feel like they get shut down and not taken seriously. Women who want to report being sexually abused to the police feel ashamed or embarrassed when reporting it to a male, so they don’t do it. University of Virginia Today author, Caroline Newman, says that “Increasing female representation in America’s police forces can both increase reporting of violent crimes against women and decrease domestic violence, according to a new study from University of Virginia economics professor Amalia Miller.
Female officers could help police departments take sexual abuse cases more seriously. Female victims could feel more comfortable reporting a crime whether it is domestic violence or another form of violence. Author Caroline Newman also said, “”Victims might worry about being judged or experience shame, especially when reporting sexual crimes. Talking about those crimes with a male officer, especially if the woman is being abused by a man, could be very difficult. (UVA Today)””. Also, adding more female officers could change the culture of individual police departments, “”It’s possible that this indicates a cultural shift in some departments, where hiring female officers also influences the behavior of male officers, especially if female officers have risen through the ranks and gained more authority. (UVA Today)”
There are a few practices that sexually abused females can do to help other victims speak out. First, avoid judgment of the victims decisions. Be an active and supportive listener. Sometimes all it takes for a victim to feel more comfortable is to talk to someone about what is on their mind. Let the victim control what happens, like letting them report when they are ready (UVA Today). Many women struggle with speaking out because they feel like once people know that they are a victim, that they will be treated differently. As a supporter, you can assure people and help them understand that what other people believe does not matter.
Sometimes the perpetrator of sexual abuse can be a victim too. Several researchers have tried to understand what may increase the chances of an individual committing sexual abuse against a child. Possible explanations mention that child sex abusers report having been sexually abused in childhood. “Taking this latter factor into consideration has fed the theory that there is a victim-to-perpetrator cycle; in other words, those who have been sexually victimized as children will go on to commit sexual assault when they reach adulthood. However, this phenomenon has been studied almost exclusively among male perpetrators. (Fight Against)” However, other then the fact that rates for sexual abuse in childhood are higher with the perpetrators of sexual assault than the adult males in the general population, being sexually abused as a child does not seem to be a factor to sexually offend later on in life. The factors that increase the risk that male victims of child sexual abuse will go on to commit sexual assault suggest that those individuals who do offend had more problems in childhood and were unaware of the negative effects of the sexual abuse they had suffered. The men in these cases who were abused as children and abuse people now, do not realize that they have a problem. They do not speak out about their problem because they feel like nobody will have sympathy for them.
There are many things that people of society can do every day to reduce sexual abuse of women. One thing that the society can do is to better educate themselves on the consequences of rape. By educating themselves, people get a better grip of how serious sexual abuse is. Another thing that society can do is to have less rape supportive attitudes and empathy toward victims. The more someone has empathy for something, they want to do what it takes to help them out. Finally, gender differences are a big problem when it comes to reducing sexual harassment of women. The majority of perpetrators are male. The supportive attitudes are mostly from males in society but also females don’t try to stop it. Women need to speak up for themselves and stop the spread of the “rape supportive attitude. (Gender inequalities in the workplace: the effects of organizational structures, processes, practices, and decision makers’ sexism)”
Overall, the current policies and practices about sexual harassment and abuse that cause silence in victimized women, are harmful to the health of today’s society. Every women who is a victim of sexual abuse needs to have a safe place they can go to speak out. Society needs more awareness and activism for sexual assault and harassment.
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Sexual Harassment Victims Silenced. (2019, Feb 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/sexual-harassment-victims-silenced/
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