What the #MeToo Movement is Missing
Mental Health and Healing for the Stigma, Shame and Fear of Survivors
Shame. Embarrassment. Guilt. These feelings are attached to me like sick bacteria that I am trying to scrape off so I can feel like a survivor and not a victim of harassment and abuse. I have never had a problem reporting retaliation issues in the workplace, it was the cover-up and lack of support and complacency of my management and co-workers that began the very worst feeling of being on the wrong side of history and my path to heal from PTSD – FEAR. Fear surrounds my every move that I take to reconcile abuse in my workplace. I was named in an internal investigation report, spoke to inspector generals, psychologists from the department who were supposed to be part of the corrective action plan, filed multiple FOIA requests for documentation that have been denied over 7 years to strengthen my case, reported to the Office of Accountability when it was set up years later and had to represent myself (as a non-lawyer) in a court docket that, to this day, has no final decision.
I, like many other survivors, watch what is happening with the #MeToo movement in the chance to know what to do now. I watch the women and girls standing up and speaking out of abuse and instead of feeling a sense of relief, I am concerned for the aftermath of their lives in this public storm. Reporting is just step one in, what has been for me, a very long process of recovery. I understand shaking from panic attacks, stuttering because I find it very difficult to keep repeating my story over and over to internal authorities that are in place and being terrified that I will lose my job and not be able to support my husband and two small daughters because I did the ‘right’ thing without any closure.
I have waited for 7 long years for someone to speak up on my behalf and the silence is deafening. Four years ago, I went to a neurologist after getting a referral from a therapist and learned that there was a ‘blip’ on my brain. I learned I had PTSD. It took me years to come to terms with that and now I am going through therapy that focuses on healing specifically for PTSD. I take medication for anxiety, to sleep at night, and to feel CALM artificially. I still work in the same environment and realized that the only way to help myself in this situation is to go through it. I was consumed by the fear and anger that I had to work on myself to heal from a situation I didn’t cause or want. I had to work to heal myself from a situation that I could not understand why I didn’t get support. I had to work to heal myself while knowing that I did everything I could to get help from work abuse and retaliation and still – it didn’t get better. Why would I ask someone to put themselves out there for a movement without telling them the reality of the aftermath in speaking out in my own personal experience? Having PTSD shouldn’t be my shame.
That’s when someone very close to me confided recently they had been assaulted. My first question wasn’t, “Did you report it?” It was, “How are you doing?” which was followed by, “this isn’t your fault. Go to a therapist to heal.” My friend did report it to the police and I could understand exactly what he was feeling. The non-action, trying to right the wrong of feeling violated without any means of justice or satisfaction; it feels very lonely and empty. That was when I started to talk about recovery. Mental health. I learned the hard way as a teenager after getting a restraining order against a violent ex-boyfriend that a piece of paper doesn’t stop abusers, and after I did all the reporting, I had to work on myself. It’s not fair, but it’s the reality of the situation. Get help. Seek advice from professionals. There is no shame in taking medication. There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist for four years and not feel completely healed from the trauma of abuse. The faster you get help for recovery, the better off your chances are to heal in a way that doesn’t chemically change your brain and the perception of yourself. PTSD is horrible. Reliving those feelings in a fight or flight mode is jarring to my life and I want survivors to know they can and should seek treatment from trauma because you don’t heal in a courtroom, you heal internally.
I feel hope that I am living in a time in America where women and girls can speak out about abuse and are being heard. However, my story really began at recovery from abuse and I do not hear enough about getting help to survivors other than through the court. Trauma shouldn’t be dictated by legislation, it deserves the respect and delicacy of each individuals path to healing. Empathy goes a long way to understanding and helping victims survive and thrive after abuse. I may never get a final decision or answer to reconcile my years of harassment and retaliation in the workplace. I’m coming to terms with that. Now my focus is on doing what I can to prevent this situation for others in the future and, more importantly, learning how I can not only live with the past, but to feel empowered by the very difficult and heart-wrenching reporting I have had to go through alone. I support all those who are speaking out, and I’m ready for Step Two. I am ready for the mental health conversation that must come and to start providing services for those affected by abuse so they can heal.
I wouldn’t tell someone to jump out of a plane without a parachute and I wouldn’t tell a survivor to jump into the court system without seeking mental health support. Let’s focus on the mental health of the survivors before pushing them out into public forums while still traumatized. My first question to a survivor will never be, “Did you report it?” It will be, “How are you doing?” followed by, “this isn’t your fault. Go to a therapist to heal. This is what is working for me”. Let’s make recovery Step 1 and then focus on reporting and handling these cases in the court of law. We need to break the cycle of abuse and a good way to do that is to empower the survivors to heal and thrive as they speak out and report. Their stories are the movement, but their stories are only beginning. I support their difficult journey of recovery because I am doing it, too. #MeToo #TimesUp #Recovery
Get Help for Your Trauma (what is helping me)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy http://www.emdr.com
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral_therapy
- My wonderful psychiatrist
- Sensory integration therapy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_integration_therapy
Get Out and Report while Focusing on your Recovery!
- If you are in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.
- Or for anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
- Plan Ahead and Make the Changes You Need in Your Life. Read THIS.
- Human Resources at your place of employment.
- National Women’s Law Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity: https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Sexual-Harassment-Fact-Sheet.pdf
- National Employment Lawyers Association: http://www.nela.org/NELA/index.cfm.
Please share what has helped you in your recovery in the comment section below.
Check out this inspirational video: How to get stuff done when you are depressed | Jessica Gimeno | TEDxPilsenWomen