So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week or so (or just not on social media), you’ve noticed the numerous “ME TOO” statuses flooding FB and twitter. While I understood the general concept (to bring awareness to sexual assault and abuse), I had no idea where it came from and what prompted it. So like any curious person who wants information, I Googled it…lol. Well needless to say, I am all too familiar with aspects of sexual assault/abuse both professionally and personally. What is most baffling, however, is not the sheer number of individuals updating their status on FB and twitter to stand in solidarity with others, but the idea that people, victims, survivors, are still made to feel ashamed of having been assaulted or abused by another person. Victim blaming still very much occurs, and it happens in every type of social interaction you can fathom. It happens when victims take the stand in a courtroom, it happens through the media, it happens through social media, it happens in every community, it happens in schools, it happens in churches and other religious institutions, it happens in families, and it happens amongst friends. Don’t pretend like you haven’t heard/seen this happening. We’ve all read a newsfeed that talks about the victim’s past relationships or sexual interactions. We’ve read the comments of people discussing the victims clothing (or lack thereof). We’ve heard comments speaking about a person’s choice to consume alcohol or drugs. More recently, we’ve heard individuals discussing how long it took someone to speak up. You may even be one of those individuals who have made the comments or had the thoughts. My question…that has yet to have ever been answered…is why does any of that matter? A person’s choice to dress a certain way does not give free pass for another person to not be able to 1) demonstrate self control 2) disregard personal boundaries 3) force themselves on another individual and/or 4) make ignorant, inappropriate, and/or insulting comments. A person’s sexual past and relationship history is not an automatic “green light” to engage in sexual acts with another individual nor does it negate that person’s right to say NO! While public schools are busy giving out dress codes that can make catholic school look lax, how about we also include rules on what TRUE CONSENT actually is and what self-control looks like. Don’t get me wrong, I whole-heartedly agree with the need for a dress code because otherwise the hallways would rival a Victoria Secret and Calvin Klein underwear fashion show (because apparently clothing that actually leaves something to the imagination is old fashioned). However, though I don’t necessarily agree with what is worn, it does not equal consent to assault, abuse, or harass. The answer to why it took so long to be reported is the very purpose of the post…because of shame and fear! What people are doing when they resort to victim shaming, is giving a pass to the person who is truly to blame…THE ABUSER! I believe the statistics are something like 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men are sexually abused (according to RAINN). That number is DISGUSTING and NOT because of the victims! While everyone in this country is busy fighting amongst each other about the current political climate, I would surely hope you all would take a moment and look in the mirror and figure out how we address this problem together. How can we make it so that more people speak up when this happens? How can we be sure that the abusers aren’t allowed to roam freely to re-offend? How can we begin to shift the narrative from victim blaming to offender blaming? How can we ensure that the victims receive the services they need to heal? How can we as a country begin to grow a conscience and place the humanity back in the human race? My personal opinion is that the first step is to STOP making excuses for the offender, and STOP searching for a reason to blame the victim. What are your thoughts/suggestions?
There are so many struggles that we all have when it comes time to make those hard decisions. You know which ones I’m referring to. The one that would require you to separate from your normal group in order to press forward and achieve your goals. Maybe you’re like many individuals who fight hard to maintain their friendships, relationships, and even relationships with family members in effort to not “seem fake” or act like you’re “too good”. The problem with that line of thought is that it is often prescribed to you by those who don’t share your vision, drive, or desire to improve.
My pastor, Dr. Bradley of Mountain of Blessings Christian Center, is currently teaching (and yes I mean teaching and not preaching) a series he titles “Overcoming Slave Mentality”. A great series and I encourage all to go to the website and listen to the archives…you WON’T be disappointed. Anyway, one recurring theme in this series is the idea of boxes and allowing society, our peers, and our families to “box” us in and keep us in a designated box. You may be the one allowing yourself to be boxed in. How many of us when in elementary school were asked what we wanted to do/be when we got older? How many of us can even remember what it was we chose? Possibly a police officer, a doctor, an astronaut, a dancer, a princess, a lawyer, etc. This was back when we were young enough to dream and maintained that innocence to not allow others to crush our dreams. Why is it, then, that some of us never achieve our dreams? What happened along the way? Did we simply achieve another dream, or did we let go of our dreams altogether?
It is time to take a step back and truly think about the answer to that question. Even if you have achieved your dream, what were some of your barriers along the way? Dr. Bradley spoke about being influenced by those we interact with. In the world of psychology, that theory is called Symbolic Interactionism first coined by Herbert Blumer. There are three basic premises to this theory: 1) we, as people, respond to situations based on the meaning we ascribe to the situation 2) this meaning comes from interactions we have with others 3) the meaning is often interpreted based on social experiences. Essentially, the theory is stating that while we all may believe that we are individual thinkers, our thinking is, in fact, shaped by our interactions and experiences.
Now that all the philosophy, theory, psychology (blah, blah, blah) is explained, let’s now talk about how it relates and what we can do to improve. We were once young, innocent children with dreams of being somebody. What happened along the way? Did we allow others to influence our decisions? Did we allow friends and/or family to influence what we became? Did we allow these same individuals to make us believe that we don’t deserve to be better? Did we fall into quicksand and no matter how much we fought to achieve, it feels like we’re fighting a losing battle? Are we afraid to tell our best friend that while we love them, we’re unhappy in this same situation, and in order to be where we want to be in life we need to move? Are we allowing our parents to control our every move in life even though we’re adults? Are we too busy trying to “fit in” because standing out is scary? Are we too afraid to achieve our dreams, or, better yet, too afraid to FAIL? Well here are some suggestions that can be used to help you overcome the self-doubt, overcome the self-imposed barriers, overcome the fears, and destroy your box.