Self-Care and the #MeToo Movement
A few weeks ago, I watched a powerful documentary called What Haunts Us. In this documentary, the filmmaker investigates a series of suicides that are related to history of sexual abuse at a school. What happened at this school will likely anger and offend you. It’s heartbreaking. However, the filmmaker brilliantly points out a bigger and broader problem. We are a society that struggles with accepting and addressing problems with sexual abuse and sexual assault. We aren’t a society that has historically created a safe place for people to come forward. Many people talk themselves out of addressing concerns. Others are smothered in denial. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of cultural dynamics that have allowed and even celebrated the sexual mistreatment of others (especially children and women).
At the end of this documentary, the filmmaker makes a powerful statement about what truly haunts us. What haunts us isn’t the stories of survivors who come forward. What haunts us is ourselves. Culturally, we often choose comfort. We choose not to dive into the painful truths that allow this behavior to continue to happen.
This is the beauty of the #metoo movement. People are coming forward with their stories of sexual misconduct. It no longer can sit in the backdrop of our culture, because when it does, we allow more of this to take place.
At the same time, this information can be difficult to take in these stories. This is especially true of those who have dealt with this type of misconduct in their pasts. While hearing these powerful stories and hearing the politicization of these stories, it can make coming forward even more intimidating, painful, and scary. For those who have been contending with their stories, it can open old wounds.
We have to take care of ourselves and we have to take care of each other to make it through this.
Dealing with the politicalization of trauma
Every week, I work with people who have to deal with the painful traumas from a history of sexual abuse, harassment, and assault. I see the levels of stress that come from dealing with elections, nominations and political opinions about sexual trauma.
But this post isn’t about politics itself. If you’re reading this, it’s likely about you and how you can take care of yourself in this politicized time. It’s also how we’re all involved in opening up old, cultural wounds and supporting each other.
So many situations of sexual assault, harassment and abuse are being covered by the news. Many of our politicians are using offensive language to politicize the painful traumas of others. For those who have experienced traumas, as well as the supportive people in their lives, this can be traumatic.
As you hear pundits and politicians talk about sexual traumas, please remind yourself that many of them don’t know anything about it. If you find yourself angry at who you’re listening to, that’s probably the person who doesn’t know much about what these traumas entail.
No story should be dismissed, but you get to decide if and when you would want to come forward.
I have heard over and over on television, “why didn’t this person bring this up earlier?” People bring up past abuse when it’s appropriate for them. That will always be inconvenient for someone else. Our current climate is acting as if people should come forward only when that works for everyone else. Please remind yourself that this is complete BS.
Our society has a serious issue with how to handle sexual abuse and assault and it’s very clumsy in addressing these things. I believe that this leads to doubt, blame and suspicion of the person who has been assaulted.
We’re in the midst of a cultural shift and that agitates people. I’m not saying that as an excuse for those who minimize trauma. Instead, it’s important to remember, so that you can find those people who will support you through this time. Because the period of change will be chaotic.
It’s important to be a change agent and it’s important to take breaks as well. You have to first take care of yourself. That may mean detaching from the chaos, increasing the things that you enjoy. Sometimes you’ll be able to speak up and advocate. Other times you may need rest and time to regenerate.
Some people will identify their own ability to speak up and challenge BS. Remember that no one can do this all by themselves, all the time. You have to give yourself time and space. You also have to lean on others.
Speaking of BS, politicians and the media usually don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to sexual misconduct. Remember that. This is being turned into 2 opposing sides. Recently, there are debates about whether someone else needs to share their story publicly. Let me say this now. That’s none of their business! I bring this up because another key element to your self-care is remaining mindful. The media can play us at times, and when it turns personal issues into political debates they’re turning this into a game for ratings.
Speaking of mindfulness, I know that when it comes to trauma, there will be times where it’s very difficult to remain mindful. We can lose ourselves in space in time. Find people in your life who can help you ground to a sense of mindfulness.
Also find those people who will let you let your emotions out. Focus on those who won’t minimize your experiences. Instead, try to put your attention on those who listen and hold space for you.
Finally, treat yourself with self-kindness. There’s no perfect way of handling such challenging times.