Let’s talk … About sexual abuse #MeToo

There is a cultural sea change taking place as each day some powerful, “successful” person is being called out for sexually abusing younger, vulnerable victims. “Strength in numbers” has led former victims to find their voice to challenge their perpetrators and the power structures that have protected and ignored the victim’s past protests and accusations. The potential for massive social change is possible as personalities, long protected by their fame and monetary value, are being swiftly removed from their positions of power by organizations that are recognizing that today, the voices won’t be silenced.

Sexual abuse is a form of trauma with lasting effects for a victim who has no recourse but to remain silent. Particularly in work settings, religious organizations and ethnic subcultures where authority and hierarchy require the subordinate to comply with orders from above or risk being fired, excommunicated or ostracized. For many, it is a lonely trauma often tainted with shame and self-blame. Sexual abuse is a violation of power, a form of humiliation that subjects the victim to actions that violate their self-esteem, their ability to trust, and if unaddressed, their ability to experience true and honest intimacy and love.

If a victim has been unsuccessful in being heard and being believed, they often have no choice but to do their best to bury that part of them that has been harmed along with the anger and pain. Secrecy, depression, and emotional numbing may be the burden they carry for years. So the women and men who are speaking out today are showing the world that their voices can make a difference not only for themselves, but for others to follow. Institutions and organizations will now have to face the power of multiple voices of protest and the presence of compassionate witnesses who will speak out on behalf of others, or suffer the consequences of public outrage and contamination of their identity with the perpetrator.

The Japanese American family and our community is not exempt from such violations of power. Our tendency to avoid shame at all cost, to endow power to elders and authority, can and does lead to an often unspoken demand to not speak the unspeakable. Let us all take a lesson from what is happening in the wider world today to make sure that each of us listen with care and compassion if someone shares an experience of abuse.

Daruma psychology teaches us that in listening with care and compassion, the person who was victimized can be strengthened to trust their voice and find healing.

Satsuki Ina, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in intergenerational trauma. She can be reached at satsukina44@gmail.com. She is also a filmmaker (“Children of the Camps” — www.children-of-the-camps.org and “From a Silk Cocoon: A Japanese American Renunciation Story” — www.fromasilkcocoon.com). Views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

 

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