The offense of sexual trauma can be debilitating against anyone. Whether male or female, the crippling effects can be the same when it comes to how a victim internalizes and ultimately handles the healing processes as well the aftermath of the trauma. The offense can be an actual rape, sexual assault, harassment, child abuse and/or molestation, incest, drug facilitated assault, intimate partner sexual violence, or any other form of unwanted sexual offense that violates one’s privacy and respect of their personal space while threatening the protection of their person as it is certain to create a victim in every circumstance.
Although these offenses are committed against the victim it is the victim that takes on the daunting responsibility of not revealing the crimes against them or as society loosely translates it “keeping silent” of the heinous things that have transpired. Many may say this almost sounds ridiculous as to why would a victim “keep silent” about such things performed against them especially those individuals that “keep silent” for extended periods of times even decades later. What are they hiding? What are they afraid of? Why didn’t they tell it then? Why are they protecting their perpetrator? These are just some of the questions that society haphazardly throws at victims without even thinking of how much greater the evil versus the good while asking these type of questions, and I can promise you it’s like you’re throwing daggers into their stories while piercing their souls at the same time.
There was a practice that is noted first in Scotland then later in England in the 1500’s called “scolding” or “branking.” It was where a scold’s bridle, sometimes called a witch’s or brank’s bridle, was used as an instrument of punishment or as a form of torture and public humiliation. The device itself was an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head with a bridle bit projected into the mouth and pressed down on top of the tongue. Although it may have been used on men, this form of punishment was primarily used on women whose speech was deemed “riotous” or “troublesome” so the bridle would prevent them from speaking publicly. It is noted that when the brank is placed on the “gossiper’s” head that they would be led through town to show that they had committed an offense or “talked” too much. This was in fact to humiliate them into repenting their “riotous” actions. Then not only did they have the audacity to place a spike inside the gag to prevent any talking since obviously any movement of the mouth would cause severe piercing of the tongue, but in some locations, branks would be permanently displayed by publicly attaching them, for example, to the town cross or tolbooth as displaying the branks in public was intended to remind the populace of any rash action or slander.
Unfortunately it appears that this practice of “branking” is still happening today in present day society although an actual scold’s bridle may be invisible to the human eye it still carries the same mental torment and public humiliation. Many victims walk around with a forced bit in their mouths to keep silent of the sexual offenses committed against them. A victim of sexual violence is led to believe that if they speak out against the crime against them or against their offender that some form of retaliation and or humiliation would ultimately lead to the discrediting of their reputation or an untimely demise. When we tell a victim that we do not believe them as they attempt to come forward with their account of incidents we are telling them that they are indeed “riotous” in their public speech. When we silence a victim by intimidation and dare them to speak publicly against their offenders, no matter how powerful or prestigious their offenders may be, we are giving them the impression that they are “troublesome” in their actions.
The real crime is how society stands idly by as victims are shamed in public humiliation not only afraid to share the truth but literally dared to speak the truth against their offenders. While you are wondering what victims are hiding you should be wondering what they are not revealing, because with the unwelcomed gawks and stares of the unbelieving public, along with the mental excruciating pain from the “invisible” spike inside the gag, has caused them to shut down in the midst of speaking their truths. So I ask you, if you knew that your fate was destined to be permanent public degradation for reporting a sex crime against you must we still ask, what are sexual assault victims afraid of or why don’t they report their crimes sooner? I am sure that no one wants to be muzzled because they are considered “gossipers” that “talk too much” then basically forced to repent and/or recant their truths. This was not an equitable form of justice back in the 1500’s and it most definitely not an equitable form of justice now in the 21th Century.
Victims of sexual violence did not want, ask or desire to be traumatized. As there is no glory in allowing an individual to take your virtue by force, violate your body and space without permission, rob you of your innocence while making you question your self-worth then at the same time lose your identity. The time is now that we turn public humiliation into crowd participation by helping victims everywhere remove the “branks” from their heads and the “bits” from their mouths and that is with our support as we encourage them to continue to come forward and speak up and out publicly against sexual violence and offences against them. When a victim looks into the public’s eyes it is imperative that compassion and concern is displayed as the forces of evil always seem greater in the eyes of their offender and it is here that they seem to lose all hope when they feel that they stand alone against predatory giants.
Since when is speaking the truth supposed to cause open shame? Since when did a person that wants to be released from their physical torment not released at all because they have to live with the mental torment for the rest of their lives? Since when does the public have the power to keep a victim victimized? Since when does a violent sexual predator get the opportunity to intimidate and silence his victims?
Only compassion can offer comfort in the midst of these present dehumanizing times as we are definitely dwelling in a land among predatory giants. Sexual violence has no place here yet it exists and speaking up publicly against it is unusual yet it continues. However, I am still confident that we will win the fight against sexual violence as it was merely a stone that killed Goliath. Or, in other words, as long as we continue to stand in courage and face our giants, whether standing in public humiliation with lacerated tongues, scandalized names while being questioned by many, sometimes even our loved ones, we will slay these sexual predator giants that dwell among us.
Guest blogger views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic and iCarol
The following blog post discusses the topic of sexual violence and harassment.
Dozens of women have recently come forward with sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a movie mogul and producer. While it’s unclear if any formal criminal charges will be filed as a result, Weinstein has so far lost his job at The Weinstein Company and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The stories being shared in the wake of these allegations reignite an international conversation about sexual violence, particularly the prevalence of violence against women. Experiences of sexual violence or harassment are extremely difficult to talk about. Survivors often feel pressure to remain silent about what happened. Trauma, fear of not being believed, being shamed/blamed, fear of retaliation or further violence, and other potential consequences keep many from telling someone or reporting crimes. Many people don’t realize or perhaps don’t believe that this sort of harassment and abuse is widespread and unfortunately a fairly universal experience for women in particular.
Tonight, the hashtag #MeToo went viral, bringing attention and opening eyes to just how prevalent these experiences are. It began with a tweet by actor Alyssa Milano, who resurrected a movement originally started years ago by an activist named Tarana Burke.
While it originated on Twitter, the posts and hashtag quickly spread to other social media platforms like Facebook.
So far, several thousand people are posting, sometimes simply sharing the hashtag as a way to acknowledge their experience without sharing any details. Others are sharing their stories. It’s too soon to know how much of an impact these stories might have on the broader conversation about sexual violence, including how we can eliminate it. But it’s clear that people are feeling safer discussing it online when surrounded by others telling their stories. Perhaps this solidarity, in such large numbers, can bring about positive change.
Since its debut on Netflix earlier this year, the drama “13 Reasons Why,” an adaptation of a young adult novel, has spurred much discussion among suicide prevention experts and mental health advocates.
The series follows the story of Hannah, a teenager who has recently died by suicide. As her parents, teachers and friends process the loss, Hannah’s close friend and crush, Clay, finds himself obsessed with Hannah’s death, what caused her to kill herself, and how it may have been prevented. He is plagued by the “what ifs” of their time together. A mysterious delivery sends Clay further down a path of grief, regret, and ultimately the start of healing and learning lessons from loss.
Some have praised the series for drawing awareness to the topic of suicide. “13 Reasons Why” is one of Netflix’s most watched programs of 2017 and has exposed people to suicide and the intense grief of survivors, and also issues like sexual assault, drug addiction, and bullying.
Unfortunately, the show is riddled with problematic content. Hannah’s suicide is romanticized, especially in the context of the star-crossed lovers relationship between Hannah and Clay. Suicide is portrayed as an acceptable method of revenge, and the revenge element often overshadows the complex and mounting reasons that Hannah took her own life. Opportunities to show how teens might reach out, and successfully receive help, are missed, and in fact it shows only how attempt’s to get help could go horribly wrong. Teenagers could construe this message as discouraging help-seeking from adults. Finally, and most upsetting, is the fact that Hannah’s suicide is graphically depicted, going against guidelines that suicide experts outline for the media. For a program aimed and marketed towards teens, who are particularly vulnerable to influence and suicide contagion, these are some dangerous missteps that overshadow any awareness message.
Suicide prevention experts and advocates have been speaking out about “13 Reasons Why” since it was released, and that includes Beau Pinkham, Director of Crisis Intervention Services at The Crisis Center of Johnson County, Iowa. In a recent Op-Ed, Beau lays out the dangers of the series’ depiction of suicide and the effects it is having. You can read Beau’s Op-Ed in the Des Moines Register here.
Have you watched “13 Reasons Why?” What were your thoughts? Please leave us a comment below.
The opinions expressed in this blog entry belong to the blog author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of iCarol Software management or its other employees
iCarol is thrilled to attend the National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) in Dallas, TX, June 7-9, 2017. Over the past few years, iCarol has helped more and more agencies working in the sexual violence support space, especially as the need to offer chat and text to survivors increases. We couldn’t be more honored to help these agencies in their missions, and make the work these vital agencies do easier, and save them time and money along the way.
For some, like the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, the agency is focused on sexual violence prevention and survivor support. For many other iCarol clients, sexual violence support work is part of a multi-faceted agency.
In particular, providing survivors options for texting and live chat during the crucial hours following a sexual assault ensures they have options other than calling on the phone to reach out to the supporting agency. Many survivors have questions about getting a SANE nurse exam, or need support. Some agencies even explain how an advocate can meet the survivor at the hospital and explain the processes over text messages or live chat. In many states, the sooner evidence is collected in an exam (often within 72 hours), the better. The support work for survivors surely does not end there.
Here are a few other highlights of iCarol’s work with sexual violence support agencies:
Ensure hours/funding are accounted for and seamlessly administer and track:
- Advocate/SANE hospital & mobile responder activities
- Outreach/presentations at schools, events, training
- Case worker/advocate follow-up — no one gets missed
Instant reporting for funders:
- Advocate and staff training hours & certification (also with expiration alerts to staff)
- Monthly & quarterly reporting of interactions (calls, chat, text, in person), stats built right in
Better volunteer/advocate/staff shift attendance:
- Clear and web/mobile accessible organized schedules
- Seamless tools for volunteers to get help to fill a shift
- Text and email reminders about upcoming shifts
The conferences is “A Conference for People Who Want to End Sexual Violence,” according to their website. It also states: “The purpose of the conference is to provide a national training opportunity for 1,500+ workers from rape crisis centers, state sexual assault coalitions and other allies (medical professionals, law enforcement, campus rape crisis programs, public health department workers, and others) from across the United States and its territories.”
If you are going to be at the conference, please stop by the iCarol booth! Have questions or want to set up a time to meet? Please !
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we’d like to share a recent story featured on Cleveland’s local CBS affiliate, highlighting the fantastic work of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, including their new chat and text program with iCarol. We were honored to welcome this organization into the iCarol family a few months ago and are so proud of the positive impact they are having, the dedication of their volunteers and staff, not to mention the strength and bravery of the survivors who they are helping.
CRCC promotes a vision of a community free from sexual violence. Their programs lend support and resources to survivors of rape and sexual abuse, helping them throughout their healing process, while also promoting prevention and social change necessary to abolish sexual violence. You can find out more about their many wonderful programs and services on their website.
As CRCC’s website discusses, it wasn’t all that long ago that most survivors kept silent due to the shame and also lack of societal understanding around rape and sexual abuse. In some ways things have improved for survivors in that there are now more resources available and more understanding people ready to hear and accept stories of sexual violence without judgment or blame placed on the survivor.
Still, survivors experience a myriad of emotions resulting from the trauma of sexual violence, and it can be extremely difficult to discuss. It’s estimated that even today, more than 2/3 of sexual assaults are never reported. The vast majority of sexual assaults also occur between two parties who know one another, and not between strangers. This further complicates an already painful experience, especially if the rapist was someone the survivor liked or trusted.
CRCC is a force behind breaking the silence by offering channels that meet the survivor where they are via outlets that can feel safer than discussing it over the phone. Like so many of our helpline clients have experienced, these silent forms of emotional support available through live chat and texting provide an anonymity that helps people feel less exposed and vulnerable, and can become a first step to recovery.
In the short time since their chat and text program launched, CRCC has been busy with traffic from their local community, while also receiving some messages from as far away as California and Nevada. Their experience of immediately receiving a healthy volume of texts stems from a great marketing plan, but also the fact that they text-enabled their existing helpline number – a number that had been known to their community for more than 40 years. We’ve often heard from our text-enabling users that texts will begin to flow in before much advertising or marketing is even done. We believe that this is because the pervasiveness of texting in our culture leads many people to assume these helpline numbers accept both chats and texts, and thus you could already be receiving texts to your helpline that you’re not even aware of.
We hope you’ll join us in congratulating the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center on this latest success and wish them well as they serve survivors of sexual violence. Check out the news story below!