Believe the women.

You may have been reading all these reports coming out of Hollywood and Washington, from around the world really, of women (and men) who claim to have been sexually abused or assaulted, years ago. They are so many of them, and they are all repeating the same thing: I was a victim, but I cannot be silent any longer.

The world as we know it is falling apart, and some are wondering if it can be all real, or if they are just making this all up for their own twisted reasons, be it fifteen minutes of fame, vendetta, or financial gain of some sort. My own 15-year-old son commented about it, the other night. “It can’t be all real, mom. Some of these women are lying for sure. They are just trying to get famous.”

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I may have failed as a mother. But my son isn’t the only one who has doubts.

Where have we gone wrong? What is the reason we do not want believe all these accounts? I don’t know any of these women and men who are coming forward. I wasn’t there when it happened. But I know what they are talking about. And I know why they have not come forward until now. Because I am one of them.

Over 25 years ago, I was sexually assaulted by my best friend’s boyfriend. I didn’t ask for it. I wasn’t drunk. I was simply the last girl being dropped off after the disco, and the guys in the car decided they wouldn’t unlock the doors and let me out until they "got a couple of favors" from me. As he climbed into the backseat to me, I didn’t scream. I didn’t fight. It was those two guys against me. I just thought “The forest is only 50 meters away. Let’s play along, so they don’t take me there and rape and kill me.” That’s exactly what went through my 15-year-old head. So I let them touch me, let him use my limp hand for whatever he wanted to do, just 5 meters away from my parents’ front door, in a car, in the dark, while I looked away and hoped to die. After a few minutes that seemed like an eternity, they unlocked the car door, and I let me go. I snuck into the house, cleaned myself up and went to bed. The next day, or any day after that, I didn’t tell anyone about it. I shut the hell up because I felt like the whole thing was my probably my fault. Maybe I looked at them wrong, maybe my skirt was too short. If I would have told my best friend what her boyfriend had done, I feared she would blame me and never speak to me again. So I didn’t talk about it. Not with her, nor anyone else. I was barely 15. I was alone with it. And I didn’t know any better - I had never even had a kiss from a guy before. How was I suppose to deal with this? The guilt and shame muzzled me, and time made me forget.

So, if your question is why these women and men have not come forward before, and if you are doubting their honesty, then think about how they must have felt. Probably exactly like me, back then. Doubtful, fearful, ashamed. Weak, immature, shaken to their core. Most of them in an age where you still believe that humanity is good, Santa Claus exists and there is no pain in the world. 

They are coming forward now because they are not alone anymore. Others are speaking up, and now the floodgates have opened, and the old memories are bursting out of the old wounds, like puss under a thick layer of skin, that seemed to have healed but never did. I cannot guarantee that there are not some people among them that have their own agenda. In it for the fame, and the financial gain. But you can bet your bottom dollar that most of the women and men who have stories to tell are speaking the truth. Because talking about the truth hurts, still. A lot. The pain and the shame are still there. It would be so much easier, so much better to just shut up and keep forgetting. But they have chosen to speak up. Because we owe it to the others to talk about it. Send a signal. Tell them, that it’s ok to speak up. Make the world know that it will no longer be forgotten, no longer be ignored, no longer be tolerated. 

Right now, sexual abuse seems to be the norm. Help to make it abnormal. The first step? Start believing these women. Stop throwing them under the bus. Take their complaints seriously, and act accordingly.

Because we all have been hurt enough already.