To some, witnessing the recent wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations, along with #MeToo stories, has been a jarring experience. When #MeToo began trending, some people seemed completely oblivious to the fact that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime – and that statistic only take into account reported assaults. To most women I know, it has been less of a shock and more like a gigantic bandaid ripping off, still attached to our skin.
Almost all of us have a story. We just didn’t talk about it.
Almost all of us know someone with a story. We just didn’t talk about it.
Telling our stories has been a wild ride, for me anyway. There has been a feeling of regaining power by speaking up, no longer forced to hide behind a smile. I’ve felt enraged by the complicity that allowed us to get to this point. I felt nauseated by the physical and psychological trauma being revealed by women. On top of that emotional boomerang, for women to even begin to be heard, we had to lay bare our deepest, most personal trauma, in public forums. It has been a wild ride.
The positive outcome of the shift we see beginning right now is fantastic. More women are speaking up. More men are listening. Change is coming – I can feel it. But there’s just one question left unanswered:
Just like every woman has a story, every woman who has spoken up has another story: the implosion of their career after reporting an incident in their workplace.
It is the rule, not the exception, that most stories follow a distinct pattern:
- Woman reports.
- Woman is discredited.
- Woman is not believed, even by those closest to her.
- Woman is cast aside and shunned.
Despite actual studies showing the only 2-10% of sexual assaults end up classified as unfounded reports, the tendency to disbelieve women is extraordinarily common. Once you have reported, you become toxic within your social and professional circles – compounding the physical and psychological trauma of the actual assault.
You become that girl.
That girl won’t get the promotion, because she’s a drama queen.
That girl won’t be hired, because she’s a liability.
That girl is shunned for not remaining silent.
If we are really interested in this becoming a watershed moment, if we are really changing the tides with the words “I believe you,” and if we really want to change how we treat victims, then we need an answer to the question from Tamara Holder, a former Fox News contributor who has been out of work since reporting.
When do we get our jobs back?
When do we regain all of the talent from women forced back into silence? It seems long past time to #HireHer.