#MeToo? A Psychotherapist Speaks on the Viral Disclosure of Sexual Assualt

#MeTooWelcome to this featured therapist BlogSpot, where UKCP registered Psychotherapist Emily Hodgkinson takes the opportunity to share her views on the #MeToo phenomena, a campaign that swept across social media platforms from October 2017 and is still ongoing.  The campaign has brought much attention to the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially within the workplace.  Emily shares her support for the campaign and hopes for an enduring movement:

 

UKCP Registered Psychotherapist Emily Hodgkinson

UKCP Registered Psychotherapist Emily Hodgkinson

The recent public accusations of sexual harassment and violence made against powerful, high profile individuals in the media, politics and beyond seem to have caught a tide of public opinion. One person finding the courage to speak out, we imagine, has helped others to reflect on their own experiences of sexual harassment, violence or abuse and led to many more finding their voices. For a while it seemed like every day there would be a new high profile ‘story’ coming to light and another ‘fall from grace’ of an establishment figure.  Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, who next, we wonder? Why now? What has changed and what is changing?  And I think very importantly, what effect does this have on us all?  We are far more than passive spectators, although being consumers of media can put us into a passive position which can be at times extremely uncomfortable or isolating.   I believe there is a need for all those of us impacted in any way by these revelations to be able to find places where we can be supported to express our feelings and reactions and to reflect on them.

There are so many reactions we might be thinking and feeling, possibly many different ones at once. Some of us might be shocked by the news.  The other day a very sensitive, respectful and empathic male friend expressed his great surprise that so many women had apparently experienced sexual violence in some form.  For my part, I was surprised by his surprise – most likely my lifelong identity as a woman has left me in little doubt how common these things are. And yet we don’t speak publicly about it, for so many reasons.  Is the silence lifting? The conversation with my friend was enlightening for both of us but it also led inevitably to the issue of my own personal experiences, and it was extremely uncomfortable for me to even acknowledge that, yes, #metoo – it had happened to me many times.  These can be tricky moments for anyone to navigate.  And if someone has experienced traumatic violence or sexual abuse, it can be excruciating to feel like the spotlight is on you. There must be many thousands of people for whom these news items trigger intense anxiety, panic and horror as painful memories are stirred. For people with unhealed trauma, remembering a traumatic event can feel exactly as if it is happening all over again right here and now.  The body’s physiology reacts accordingly and it can be utterly frightening and exhausting.  This is one of the many reasons why so many people still are not able to speak about their experiences.  Another reason is the enormous sense of guilt and shame that many victims feel even if they recognise that they have no reason to feel it.  Add to this the fact that sometimes when victims do speak out, they find themselves attacked and blamed, sometimes subtly and sometimes in ways that can feel invalidating and threatening – for example by excessive interest in what they were doing to ‘provoke’ such an attack.  Psychotherapy or counselling is one place that people can go to be heard without being judged, and to get support and help for dealing with the ‘symptoms’ of Post-Traumatic Stress.  Support groups and organisations can also make a huge difference.  Yet, as a society, we still have a long way to go in understanding the nature and impact of trauma.

I absolutely and one hundred percent support the #metoo campaign and wish it to grow into an enduring movement; every time I hear of someone else finding the courage to speak I let out a great inner Whoop of exuberance and celebration.  Every time a woman or man feels confident and supported enough to do so it is an individual and a collective achievement. But as part of all this I hope we also start to provide more support, and better support, for victims of abuse, violence and sexual harassment. I hope we support better funding for the organisations that do so much hard work out of the limelight.  And I hope we all become more skilled at enabling people to be safely heard and to stay in control of their stories.

Leicester Sexual Assault Support Organisations

Juniper Lodge – Help and support for those affected by rape and sexual assault in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

First Step – free confidential services for male rape and sexual abuse survivors & their supporters.

Jasmine House – Leicester Rape Crisis.

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