You must have noticed how high-profile celebrities have lately been reporting sexual assault and harassment cases, which may make some of us wonder why they have not come forward earlier, and what may have stopped them from doing so. This movement has pushed us all to think about victims of sexual abuse, and how many people around us may be silently suffering. The truth is, no matter how hard we try to put ourselves in the victim’s shoes, no one can ever understand how they could feel.
You’d be surprised to see how common it is for women and men to delay disclosing their traumas; some victims don’t even come forward at all. It is important, however, that we try our best to understand and see the possible reasons behind the victim’s silence, and to try our hardest to support them.
A lot of the time, victims are too afraid to speak up because they are aware that there will be no action taken against the abuser. Women, especially live in a world that constantly condemns and blames them for rape and sexual assault by telling them to dress in a way that would not be too provocative for men. When they are conditioned to blame themselves for such incidents, it becomes pointless to even consider seeking help. Until today, there have only been a handful of incidents where the accused parties got what they deserved and justice was served.
One of the most common first reactions of victims towards trauma is denial. Because abuse is a very traumatic incident, victims usually go into a state of complete denial at first. Many of the abused victims tend to completely deny that the incident happened to them, and simply try to move on. This puts a huge toll on their mental health, and convincing themselves of shrugging it off leads to bigger problems.
One of the most important reasons why victims, especially women, do not come forward when it comes to rape or assault is feeling ashamed. That shame is instilled in them at a very young age, and it is even harder in countries where women are oppressed by traditions. It is a feeling that stems from the emotional pain that women and men go through after such traumas, which is why we need to work on creating a society that makes victims feel safe and supported. Victims need to seek the help of a professional sexual assault attorney. Consulting these trusted experts can go a long way into making victims feel less ashamed and more powerful. Their loved ones need to support them throughout the process, and do whatever it takes to stand by the victims’ side. They need someone who believes in order to be encouraged to take legal action.
Another major and important reason why most people who deal with this kind of trauma rarely come forward is that they’re rarely taken seriously. This goes especially if the victim was in a relationship with the abuser, We often hear responses that go along the lines of, “you were together anyway,” or “he/she was probably just in the mood.” What we need to understand is that abuse comes in many forms, and anything that hurts the victim by depriving them of bodily integrity is definitely serious.
You could be in a relationship with someone who abuses you verbally, emotionally, sexually, or physically, and it should still be taken seriously. The only person who’s entitled to label the action as abuse or not is the victim. However, it is not easy to face people when they rarely take you seriously.
This strong emotion can drive many of us to do irrational things, and in the victim’s case, it is mostly out fearing consequences of speaking up, and fearing the abuser. Victims may be afraid of what people will think of them, and how coming forward could affect their lives. They may fear losing their job or their credibility.
Victims may also worry that their abuser might go after them when they speak up, and try to inflict more pain on them. Some people are often threatened by their abusers, which prevents them from talking about the traumatic incident.
Although things have changed for the better lately, it is unfortunate that we live in a world that still makes it harder for victims to speak up about sexual abuse trauma. This is why we need to work towards creating a world that gives no abusers entitlement or power, and stands by the innocent. If you know someone who has been through this, support them by making them feel safe enough to speak.