2017 12 BLOG Clock Ripples

For a Moment

December 29, 2017

For a moment this year the spotlight shifted to shine the light on the lived reality of so many women and men. Millions of them, in fact. For a moment, survivors of sexual abuse, those abused in childhood and in adulthood dared to come forward to let the world know it happened to MeToo.

For a moment, the predatory behavior of individuals who abuse their position of power to sexually violate those with less power came into sharp focus. We came to see, in plain sight, that our image of a sexual predator has been blissfully naïve. Is this the moment where we finally come to realize that sexual predators look just like the polished news host that appears on our TV screen each morning, the pontificating politician, or even the man (or woman) right down the street?

Is this the moment when we come to realize that sexual violation frequently doesn’t look like an act of aggression or violation? Sexual assault may or may not look like forcible rape. In fact, as we have come to see, sexual violation is most often camouflaged insidiously and quietly in the context of a relationship. Perhaps this is the moment when we begin to change the fictional picture and narrative we hold about sexual abuse. Perhaps this is the moment when we wake up to see the painful reality that has been going on right before our eyes.

And while we’re at it, perhaps this is the time to open our eyes and our hearts to just how many survivors of sexual abuse are in our midst. From this moment on, not one of us have the luxury of claiming that we don’t know any survivors. Whether we know it or not, each of us lives and works with men and women who bear the deep pain and shame of sexual violation. The millions of individuals who stepped forward to be counted in the MeToo movement are merely representative of so many more men and women who continue to keep their abuse a carefully held secret. We found out that although many, if not most, abuse victims hide the unwarranted humiliation of their abuse for years, this in no way minimizes or invalidates the harm or veracity of their abuse. In fact, the shame and secrecy of abuse only serve to compound the pain.

According to Dictonary.com, the word of the year for 2017 is complicit. A well-chosen word for this moment. The hard truth is that sexual assault, whether it is perpetrated against a child or an adult, is made possible by a culture that prefers to disbelieve or, worse yet, blame victims, minimize the damage, or simply to deny the prevalence of abuse. It has, until this moment, been easy and comfortable to look away or remain silent and in this way, if we are honest with ourselves, we have all been complicit.

So perhaps this is the moment. Perhaps this moment will lead to many more moments of awakening. Time will tell if this moment of awareness will lead to cultural change or if we, as a culture remain complicit, sinking back into our comfortable denial of an uncomfortable truth that affects more men and women than we had ever thought possible. I do believe that this can be just the beginning of a long overdue conversation that we all take part in. And I may be so bold as to assert that unless each of us engages and keeps open this conversation, we are, indeed, complicit in the silence that allows sexual violation to continue.

As each new year offers a new beginning, the seed of this moment contains the hopeful germination of lasting change. Perhaps this is a decision each of us makes within ourselves to hold open the possibility of this moment being the harbinger of long term change in our tolerance of sexual violence in any form. This indeed will ensure a Happy New Year for so many who have suffered so much for so long.


Janice Palm, Executive Director

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