Bill Cosby and Jian Gomeshi (and now Donald Trump)… Why did the victims not come forward sooner?
Warning: Graphic descriptions of sexual assault.
Bill Cosby and Jian Gomeshi are making the news these days, but not for good reasons. Both are accused of sexual assault and the accusations go back years. This has a lot of people talking, and a lot of people asking the question of why these women didn’t come forward years ago. Some doubt their stories because of this.
I am not going to comment on the guilt (or innocence) of the two accused. What I am going to talk about is why these women may have waited so long to tell their story based on my experience… this is the first time I will tell my story.
My Personal Story
When I was 11 (maybe 12) years old, a work acquaintance of my father’s came over to visit. It was a sunny spring afternoon, and the adults were outside. I was in the living room – I don’t really remember if I was watching TV, reading, or doing homework. What I remember very vividly was this man coming into the room, sitting beside me, talking to me, and then touching me where he had no business touching me. When he went to lift my shirt, I ran and locked myself in the bathroom until I heard him go back outdoors. I never said a word. I was shocked and confused. I didn’t know what to think as I had never heard of anything like this (when I was a kid, no one talked about child molestation). I somehow thought it was my fault or that I would be in trouble. I don’t know.
Fast forward to when I was 18. A cute boy that a lot of girls liked cornered me alone at my house. Several friends were in the other room. He pushed me down, and then got on top of me. He put his hands around my throat and was choking me. I slapped at him, kicked at him, and told him to stop. Thankfully, he did. Again, I never said a word about this to anyone.
I can’t imagine the horrors that so many have gone through…
Point is, I never ‘went public’ until now. Even at that, I am not naming names. Why? I think the first man is likely long dead. I have had to forgive myself for not telling anyone because I wonder how many little girls didn’t get up and run away. I don’t even remember his name (just a last name) as he was only at our home once.
The second man is married now with two children. I see him around town, we have a friendly rapport (you may think that is very strange, and I suppose it is!)and I wonder if he even remembers that afternoon. Maybe my experience was an isolated incident, but I doubt it. No one has said otherwise though. If they did, I am not even sure I would come forward now. I guess I won’t know unless it happens.
Courage or Cowardice?
Am I a coward for not coming forward? Maybe. I am being very honest with you about my feelings – right or wrong, it is how I feel at this point. Maybe someday my feelings will change. But if I do come forward, will be believed or scorned and ridiculed?
Time to COme forward
Why don’t women (and girls) come forward immediately after an assault? The reasons are varied. Fear of not being believed. Fear that they were somehow to blame. Self doubt. Fear that people will look at them differently.
So, why do women come forward many years after an assault? Their reasons are as individual as they are. It takes a lot of courage. Sometimes, things happens that makes them want to speak out. However, I suspect that when one woman bravely comes forward, it gives others the courage to come forward and say it happened to them too.
Talk to Your Kids
Talk to your kids. Let them know that it is OK to tell! Let them know that there is no shame to them for having been mistreated or assaulted. If you have been assaulted in any way, talk to someone – anyone – about it. You are not alone and it is not your fault. This was something that took me a while to learn.