In an age of speaking, let us not forget that doing so must remain a choice – not a compulsory act. Adult victims of sexual violence and their families are yet crucified for coming forward with their #MeToo, #ChurchToo stories. Let us not oppress the voiceless by choosing for them the manner and mechanism of their voice. (Note: Mandatory reporting of abuse of minors still stringently applies.)
Sexual violence violates the victim’s voice, overwhelms her with circumstances she cannot control, steals the safety of her own skin, imprisons her in a dungeon of blame, shame, secrecy, and powerlessness.
Any potential cure cannot result in the same outcomes as the disease.
That is, coming forward with her story must not: overwhelm her, strip her of power, cause her to feel less safe, isolate her further and secure her back into sealed silence. The plumb line in recovery from sexual violence is the restoration of power and control to the victim.
Priority number one is her SAFETY: physically, emotionally, psychologically, relationally, and spiritually; NOT any other agenda; however well intended.
In order to be safe, the victim must have a baseline understanding of what safety looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like. Many have had no such safe food.
To be blunt… it is NOT the victim’s responsibility (moral, ethical, spiritual, legal, civil etc.) to expose the perpetrator and lead the way for corrective action. To coercively coax a victim to speak, or speak on her behalf without her expressed permission is to disempower her again.
These agendas are secondary if and until the victim is SAFE; having her power and control restored:
1. Outing the perpetrator, even though everyone wants him exposed, including her.
2. Supporting/finding other victims.
3. Going public with a private and painful story.
I am infuriated that ANYONE would coerce a sexual abuse victim to come forward with her story prior to the establishment of her personal safety. SHE must have her power, her control, and her safety restored. She must not be further coerced, blamed, shamed and exposed. You may be well-intentioned – but you know not what you are asking. You are asking the victim, still in a weakened state, to expose herself before she is strong enough to swim against the cultural current of slanderous accusations against her, in addition to many other yet real costs of speaking out.
Yet you, I and even the victim would agree that silence only empowers the oppressor. I am NOT advocating for silence. I am advocating for safety. Safety in choosing a well thought out plan to come forward in the manner and method of her choosing with contingency plans for the inevitable backlash. I am advocating for the restoration of her power, control, voice and safety in its many facets. I am advocating that all other political, social, faith-based agendas, while good in and of themselves, must NEVER sacrifice the survivor in the process well-doing.