This year has been a big couple years for sexual assault in the headlines: Bill Cosby convicted, Taylor Swift and her sexual assault case, #MeToo, Presidential scandals, Brett Kavanaugh and the supreme court seat, rape kit testing laws being passed, Betsy Devos in the Education Department making changes to Title IX in favor of rights for the accused. As we get further into opening people's eyes to the prevalence of the problem, more and more people are wanting to look away, to decry this as a politically motivated issue, and a growing concern about the status of men, to fear for the men, men saying they are afraid to be alone with women, others saying that the Metoo movement has caused REAL victims to no longer be taken seriously. I have heard that frats of businesses that traditionally supported sexual assault related causes are now shying away, distancing themselves from something they now feel attacked by.
Despite the discomfort that this raises, more and more people have learned of their loved one's trauma histories...secrets long buried are now revealed. People have a greater understanding of the people they are with than ever before, in some cases bringing them closer, other times pulling them apart due to lack of support. However, despite all the talk about sexual assault, there is still so much that people do not understand, most often having to do with consent and the justice system. any people still believe the myth that most rapes are committed by strangers, that there is evidence, that there are injuries, that the case is investigated by police, that rape cases make it to trial, that rapists will be convicted, that most rape accusations are false, that victims have clear memories of what happened, that REAL victims report the crime immediately. No. Just No. These myths are simultaneously exhausting and hurtful.
Tonight I heard a great program on NPR's REVEAL that addressed many of these myths through great in-depth reporting. I recommend giving this two part program by Reporters: Mark Greenblatt and Mark Fahey of Newsy and Bernice Yeung of ProPublica a listen.
While we are on the subject of consent, check out this amazing third grade level explanation of consent that could make the world a better place if everyone had this in school.
Several of the trauma and sexual violence conferences I have attended this year have brought up the MeToo movement and where we are headed next. With Google execs walking out over sexual harassment policies protecting the accused and forcing victims into arbitration, we are seeing one angle that needs to be addressed. Along with this there needs to be more attention paid to Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and how they too serve to protect the perpetrators, not the victims. Indeed, there were multiple cases that came to light this year with high profile politicians, media giants, and actors and producers whose abuses were allowed to continue due in part to NDAs. Not only do NDAs use secrecy that protects perpetrators, but this silence is also particularly a malignant cancer for victims. Trauma therapists have long known that a primary factor in healing is the ability to tell one's story and receive support for it. NDAs deny this to victims.
On other fronts, groups like Equal Means Equal have been working on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendments to get equality for women and men formally recognized in the constitution...a job started in the 1970's. With recognition of the ERA, it would strengthen the ability for prosecute sexual assault related cases. With more places like Missouri enacting strict legislation about handling and testing of rape kits, there are bound to be more changes in the justice system ahead.
Megan Garza, MA, LMFT is a certified Specialist in Treating Trauma at a Supervisory level and is Licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist. She specializes in work with sexual abuse survivors.