Sexual Allegations in a World of Denial and Acceptance
I’m so sick and tired of waking up to headlines about all the disgusting sexual predators in this world! That is why I’m writing this post, instead of spending my time working on my “Lights Out at the Moulin Rouge” novel for NANO month.
No, I’m not pissed off and angry over the fact that people are finally standing up and calling out past sexual abuse and misconduct. What I’m sickened by is the fact that we live in a screwed up and twisted society of denial! Powerful people, political people, and people who regularly entertain us are not the only ones we grant a free pass with our denial. Even more common cases of sexual abuse in an everyday family can result in the same type of denial. As this article will bring out, denial exists on both sides of the table. Ironically, so does acceptance, and therein lies the problem.
There is always concern about the atmosphere of denial whenever sordid allegations are made public. We see denial from those who are foolish enough to defend a sexual deviant, even when multiple victims may have come forward. The reasons for denial may vary, but the end result is the same. People looking to make excuses for something they know or at least suspect is wrong.
- Why didn’t they say something when it happened?
- Why are they just saying something now?
- It wasn’t that big a deal.
- That was so long ago.
When victims speak up, they stop being victims and become survivors. But the ridiculous questions and statements above are exactly why victims tend to remain victims in the first place. It’s usually so much easier for them to stay in the shadows of denial. Denying that it matters, or worse yet, denying to yourself that it ever happened. There is no real healing in this. The damage is done and the pain never goes away. It’s always with you, in your mind, in your soul, and in your heart. That is why it’s definitely possible for something to trigger a victim into speaking out and finally breaking the silence. Yes, even years later.
Statements like the ones made in defense of Republican nominee Roy Moore are the kind that really get survivors like myself steamed up. I don’t see what the hell difference it makes that “14-year-olds don’t make good decisions” when you’re talking about a 32-year-old sexual predator! Hiding behind excuses, whatever they may be, just serve to protect these sexual assailants, and also helps to continue perpetuating an atmosphere of acceptance.
If denial is bad, it stands to reason that acceptance would be good, right? Wrong. Not if you’re talking about the kind of acceptance that allows us to hold certain individuals to a different standard of conduct. Unfortunately, we can’t even blame this atmosphere of acceptance entirely on Donald Trump. The problem existed long before his crude remarks about taking sexual liberties with women by grabbing them by their private parts. Unfortunately, Donald Trump isn’t the only perpetrator who has apparently been given a “free pass” for this type of behavior. It was going on long before he made those ignorant comments and still became president of the United States afterwards.
When it comes to entertainers and those in the public eye, we seem to have a higher tolerance for sexual misconduct, assault and abuse, even when the situation involves a child. With this general atmosphere of acceptance, the norm seems to be that we laugh uncomfortably at any related jokes. In the meantime, we keep voting for these people, listening to their music, and watching them on television. Continuing to give our support really amounts to condoning their behavior.
As a former abuse victim and African American woman, I struggled with stories about R. Kelly, Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby. Not only because I enjoyed their work as entertainers, but in the black community, to voice belief in their guilt was almost viewed as betraying the race.
Sad to say, when it comes to issues involving sexual allegations, any of us can succumb to this atmosphere of acceptance, even a former victim. I should say, especially a former victim. When a sexual assault victim (whatever form) is betrayed by someone they know, love, or look up to, then acceptance becomes easier. Not just acceptance of the actual crime, but acceptance of the silence and secrecy that follows.
- No one will believe me anyway.
- What happens to my life if I tell
- Maybe it’s not that big a deal.
- It’s over now so I’ll just move on.
This is a critical issue, because more often then not, it can pave the way for future victimization. Even when victims doesn’t consciously blame themselves, it’s not uncommon to feel self hatred for a period of time. Thankfully, it doesn’t always last, at least not for every victim. When it does, the typical results of a victim’s negative self images are almost always of a sexual nature. Hangups can range from total and complete celibacy, to sexually promiscuous behavior and possibly even fetishes. Many victims who don’t progress to becoming survivors, often remain easy prey for more abuse, and sometimes from the same abuser.
Fear of Aftermath
Allegations of sexual misconduct have a way of affecting more than just the accuser and the accused. There is always something additional at stake, so the aftermath is a major concern to victims who decide not to tell. I believe that is one of the primary reasons for silence.
For famous people, the worry may be about how the viewing public will see them if they come forward. In cases that involve abuse within the family (something extremely common), there are other concerns. Like the aftermath of what happens to your life when you expose the sexual predator in your family, and how the rest of the family will view you.
What if it’s not about the family. What if you’re the one exposing the really likeable guy in your neighborhood or the co-worker in the workplace that everyone seems to love. These can be difficult issues to face. The emotional weight of worrying about this can be as heavy and even more painful than the actual events that took place. Needless to say, these are valid issues for victims to be concerned about, and they are among the reasons so many victims remain silent.
Lack of Solidarity
It may be hard to believe, but even former victims can get swayed against other victims, due to the atmosphere of acceptance that we live in. When it came to the black entertainers I mentioned earlier, I truly believed that the majority of the allegations were true.
- Yes, many victims pick questionable times to come forward.
- Sure, sometimes victims have been paid off.
- Of course a political reason can be a motivator to reveal the facts.
If, in fact, any or all of the above is true, YET, the allegations are true as well, then as far as I’m concerned, the accused is still guilty. That is why I felt in my gut that even if one allegation against my favorite black entertainers were true (not to mention multiple ones), I should not continue to support them.
But did I stop listening to the music and watching them on television? No. I continued supporting them, thereby accepting their actions. Acceptance of their actions also somehow made it that much easier to continue accepting what had been done to me in the past. It was only by realizing this point that I was able to examine and understand my own complex sexual behavior, actions and hang ups, not to mention lingering emotional issues.
- No, victims don’t automatically band together in support when someone makes an allegation.
- No, the monsters in a victim’s mind and past don’t just disappear with time and distance.
- Yes, some victims misguidedly turn to questionable sexual behavior as a means of trying to regain their power.
It’s great to see movements like the resounding cry of #MeToo that is now being heard around the world due to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. This is the kind of ripple effect that can help turn victims into survivors when they speak up. That is why I also support the #IBelieveYou movement as a way of supporting those who have already come forward. Hopefully, this will also encourage other victims to do the same. So to Leigh Corfman and so many others who step forward, even in the heat of public scrutiny; I say to you YES: “I BELIEVE YOU!”
In 2016 when I published my novel: Skipping Childhood, my goal was not to write about my past abuse. I merely wanted to try and wet my feet by writing my first suspense novel, one about a serial killer. I ended up talking about child sexual abuse as a part of my own creative healing. The act of child abuse was the only thing that I could personally relate to as being a strong enough motivation to take someone’s life.
Writing that book was how my own journey to going from victim to survivor actually began. Writing it was therapeutic, because even though it was a work of fiction, it gave me a chance to purge about my past experiences. The companion blog I created was solely for the purpose of speaking openly about the realities in the book and sharing related comments about the experiences. Now, I’m happy to keep using writing as a creative way of healing and I encourage others to do the same.
Social Media Comments
I wrote this post because I think it’s wrong to subject former victims to public humiliation when they come forward. If even one misappropriate allegation against a person (let alone multiple ones) actually occurred, then the person is guilty. It doesn’t matter that:
- Some time has passed since it happened
- Consent was given by an under-aged victim
- No actual intercourse or penetration took place
Social media can be a tool for good, or a tool for bad, and each and every one of us is accountable for the things we say. As you read the stories that come out about sexual allegations, don’t be so hasty to post a thoughtless opinion. Resist the urge to make the accuser an additional target of abuse. This can be hard for some people to do when it involves people they hold high or have put on a pedestal.
Victims of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment, can only become “survivors” by taking a stand and speaking up. They need an outlet, if not a platform, where they can feel a sense of support, not further shame and humiliation. Always keep in mind that your comments can either help or hurt the current atmosphere of denial and acceptance.