And Deep Breath

Today’s post is not my usual post, but I’ve had something on my mind for the last several weeks and I need to get it off my chest. As terrified as I am to write this and share what I’m about to share… I need to end the silence.

I’ve watched with interest as the events have unfolded surrounding the firing of Jian Ghomeshi. To be honest, I’ve never listened to him as a radio host. I really didn’t know who he was until my friends started posting stories on Facebook. I read them and kept reading them. As more and more women have come forward with allegations against him, I’ve continued to read with fascination and a small sense of hope, and a small sense of relief when charges were laid.

Within our society, there exists this notion that if you don’t report rape or abuse it hasn’t happened. Statistics show the opposite. The truth is, it’s hard to talk about when you feel like you’ve done something wrong. It’s also hard to talk about it, when you feel like you’ll be the one who is put through the wringer, whose entire life will be put on display and whose reputation will be destroyed. At this point in time, women are always the ones blamed. It was because they were dressed too provocatively, or they’d had too much to drink, or “they were asking for it”. These statements make me so angry. No one, EVER, asks to be abused.

As a small child, I was molested by a male babysitter. It only happened once, but it was weeks before my parents found out. I felt like I had done something wrong and I was worried I would get in trouble. I was told not to say anything. When the story finally came out, my parents talked to his parents, but ultimately charges were not brought forward. My parents weren’t sure it was worth the “hell” of putting me through the wringer to prosecute, when it would likely be dropped. Again, the statistics show that most abuse cases never get anywhere. That said, the thought that has always played on my mind as I’ve gotten older… did he do it again? Could I have stopped it from happening? Did he even care about the damage he did? I remember that he lived down the street from our house. I can remember hating to walk past his house to get home, especially if he was outside. I can remember days where I would go out of my way to avoid walking past his house, all because I felt ashamed and embarrassed. The kicker, I didn’t do anything wrong. I was 4. He was 13.

As a young adult, I was emotionally and verbally abused by a boyfriend. I have no doubt, that had I stayed in that relationship, it would have become physically abusive. I often look back at that relationship and wonder why I stayed as long as I did. It was only about 8 months, and I’d tried several times to leave before I was finally able to escape. It was another couple of months of not answering my phone, and one call where I yelled at him, before he finally left me and my friends alone.

I come from a very loving home, with extremely supportive parents. I have trained karate from a very young age. I have a pretty good sense of myself and belief in who I am. Even with all of these things in place, I still ended up in a situation that, to this day, I don’t really understand. One that I’ve rarely talked about, because it’s “not worth it.”

So, why am I baring my soul and saying something now? Because, I have two little girls and a hope that we can change the stigma. Change needs to happen. A change in the way abuse is handled by the police and viewed by our society. A change in the way survivours of abuse are viewed. A change in how women are perceived in our society.

I want my girls to grow up and feel safe. I hope that this is something they NEVER have to face, but if something happens to them, I want them to know that they have the POWER to do something about it. That they will be believed. That the person who perpetrated the crime will be punished. That they will not be blamed or accused of “asking for it.” That they will be treated with kindness and compassion.

I know this change can’t happen overnight. I know that it’s going to take a small effort by a lot of people and a huge effort by a few to make it happen. The small effort comes from the parents of small children. Teach your boys and girls about respect. For each other. For themselves. Teach them about love and trust. Teach them about right and wrong. The huge effort comes from our policy makers. Our judges. Our police. Start by treating the men and women who come forward with abuse allegations with respect and dignity. Change the stigma. Prosecute the perpetrator, not the survivour. Trust me, they’ve been through enough already.

Women, or men, if you’ve been abused, share your story. Break the silence. Help change the stigma.

Thank you for “listening”.

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