There has been a lot of talk this week and last about the bravery of those who have come forward to say they experienced sexual harassment or assault by former Hollywood studio head Harvey Weinstein. From A-list actresses to former employees of a man who now stands accused of decades of manipulating and brutalizing women, they have shared their stories with grace, strength, and, yes, courage.
But because they are brave for going public does not mean you are weak if you do not.
It is no wonder survivors of sexual violence often choose not to report, or to speak publicly about their experiences even outside of the criminal justice system. If they do, they may face retaliation by their attackers. They may not be believed by law enforcement or their friends, family, or community. They may be subjected to scrutiny and forced to relive their attacks as others pick apart the details of what happened, question their credibility, or locate the blame with them rather than with the accused. Especially if their attacker is an intimate partner, they may be economically dependent on them, and survival may understandably seem like a higher priority than justice — whatever “justice” ends up looking like: The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network reports only an estimated three percent of rapists ever spend a day in prison. The rest walk free.
And survivors may feel shame for what they went through, or believe their assault is not “important” enough to share.
They may not even be ready to recognize what happened as assault.
If you are a survivor and have not publicly identified yourself as one, know this:
Your feelings are valid.
Your experiences are real.
You do not have to come forward if you’re not ready.
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