#Ibe­lieve­her

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion - ME­LANIE LIM

ARE men ac­tu­ally be­wil­dered why it takes so long for women to con­front their abusers? Or are they only try­ing to cast doubt on the sto­ries of women who fi­nally find their voice, many decades later?

Is it a be­lit­tling tac­tic? Or is it a gen­uinely-baf­fled male mind?

You don’t go to bat­tle un­less you be­lieve you have a fair chance of win­ning. It’s 2018. Yet, the chances of a woman com­ing out to ac­cuse a man of sex­ual abuse or as­sault and be­ing be­lieved are still slim.

The odds are stacked up against you. Most of the time, there are no wit­nesses. Most of the time, no one can cor­rob­o­rate your claims. Why? Be­cause it is just not sec­ond na­ture for vic­tims to re­port sex­ual abuse im­me­di­ately after it oc­curs.

There is the shock. There is the shame. There is the fear. There is the pain.

If you are a child, you don’t have the ca­pac­ity to fully grasp what hap­pened. You know it was some­thing ter­ri­ble but how do you nar­rate an ex­pe­ri­ence for which you can find nei­ther the courage nor the words to de­scribe?

If you are an adult, know­ing with cer­tainty that you have been wronged does not make re­port­ing it eas­ier. It’s your word against your abuser. The bur­den of proof lies upon the ac­cuser. And you know this.

If you have no proof, how do you pro­ceed? And if you choose to pro­ceed any­way, what are the chances you will be be­lieved? If you are be­lieved, can you be ad­e­quately pro­tected from ret­ri­bu­tion? And if you can be af­forded pro­tec­tion, can you sur­vive the retelling?

Would you be will­ing to ex­pose your­self, your life, your fam­ily and all your choices to the scru­tiny of a pub­lic who will be quick to pounce on ev­ery in­con­sis­tency in your story, ev­ery flaw in your char­ac­ter, ev­ery blem­ish in your his­tory?

Vic­tims stay si­lent for a rea­son. It’s not be­cause they don’t re­mem­ber. It’s not be­cause it never hap­pened ei­ther. They stay si­lent be­cause they do not want to re­live the trauma of sex­ual as­sault or abuse.

No one wants to re­live the help­less­ness, the hor­ror, the hu­mil­i­a­tion. No one wants to be as­saulted. Again. And in pub­lic this time. And this is why so many vic­tims sim­ply choose to carry their grief to the grave.

The sto­ries of sex­ual abuse be­ing bravely nar­rated in the open to­day res­onate with so many women be­cause sadly, sex­ual abuse is more wide­spread that we think.

Be­cause it hap­pened 40 years ago doesn’t make it less real. Be­cause you chose not to tell any­one doesn’t mean it didn’t hap­pen. Be­cause it hap­pened 40 years ago doesn’t ex­on­er­ate its per­pe­tra­tor. Be­cause you chose not to go after your abuser doesn’t mean it didn’t mat­ter.

To­day, I write for all the scared lit­tle girls, the ter­ri­fied teenagers, the trau­ma­tized women—all ter­ror­ized into si­lence. It’s time we told our sto­ries be­cause if we stay si­lent, they win. #Ibe­lieve­her./sun­star Cebu

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