Finding your voice: Overcoming sexual assault

Finding your voice: Overcoming sexual assault

In the wake of high-profile celebrities being accused of sexual harassment, the list has grown to more than a dozen: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., George Takei, and Jeffrey Tambor; just to name a few.

Using the hashtag #MeToo, survivors are taking to social media to indicate that they have victimized at some point in life. And, as many people learned, women are not the only ones who suffer in silence.

Actor Terry Crews made headlines when he shared via Twitter that he was once sexually assaulted by a Hollywood agent.

AWARENESS

Although it initially seemed as though actress Alyssa Milano gave life to the viral moment, its roots actually go back more than a decade. Tarana Burke founded the MeToo campaign in 2006 to give a voice to victims of sexual assault.

"I was living in Alabama and I was working with young people in Selma. In that community, the rape crisis center and some other resources in the community weren't reaching out to serve young people that were dealing with, like young women of color, said Burke. "As a survivor myself, I started thinking about what it was I needed when I was trying to start a journey toward healing and trying to process what I experienced. For me, it had been peak empathy from other survivors."

More than a hashtag or moment, #MeToo is a short and powerful way for survivors to let each other know they aren't alone.

Some victims of assault come forward immediately; many say nothing at all. Either way, Burke says finding support is key.

"I think it's courageous that women are speaking out via the hashtag, but I also say be gentle with yourself. People, I think, underestimate what it takes to publicly reveal yourself as a survivor of sexual violence, so even though it's just writing me too on social media for some people, for other people it's a huge step in their life, it's a big courageous jump," said Burke. "I want people to seek support wherever they can find it. I want you to find people who understand and who you can connect with, and I want you to be gentle with yourself."

THEIR STORIES

For many, #MeToo is an opportunity to be vocal about their experiences. Two women decided to share their story with WLOX News Now. Although the names have been changed, the details of their assault are real.

How old were you when you were sexually assaulted?

FINDING HELP

The minutes, hours, days - and even years - following an assault can be an emotional rollercoaster for victims.

Jocelyn Lane, MPH and CEO of Premier Professional Counseling Services, says the stigma surrounding sexual assault is often the reason victims remain silent.

"Usually people blame the victim: 'Why was she drinking that much...Why was she there.' Women are afraid they'll be scrutinized more than the perpetrator," said Lane.

After first seeking medical attention and reporting the attack, Lane says those who have been sexually assaulted should also seek professional help.

"We all process trauma differently. What may take someone 10 years to overcome may take someone else a week," she said. "No matter how long it may take for a victim - man or woman - to discuss trauma, there should always be a discussion. As a society, it's something that we don't often do."

Because resources vary from city to city, Lane suggests a simple internet search to start the healing process.

"Get out there and research what therapist will be best for your situation. Reach out to resources at work like EAP (Employee Assistant Program), where you can get private counseling for free," added Lane. " Also, many therapists offer self-pay options for those who do not want to file therapy sessions on insurance.

The burden of trauma caused by sexual violence isn't one anyone should bear.

"The healing process is not one you can do alone. Trauma can manifest in other areas: relationships, jobs, etc. Get the help you need so they don't become an issue later," noted Lane.

FINDING YOUR VOICE

No matter someone is victimized, two simple words can lead to the path of healing: Me, too.