International Women’s Day: Has #metoo made a real difference in the conversation on abuse?

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Artist, Mikela Henry Lowe

Over the past year or so, there’s been a seismic shift in the way society talks about abuse. When I went public about my emotional abuse four years ago, I was scorned, disbelieved and castigated for “washing my linen in public.” Thanks to the powerful women speaking out against even more powerful men there has been an explosion in conversations around harassment and abuse – something which was a no-go area before.

Now, instead of being swept under the carpet, many more people (predominantly women) are speaking out about the abuse they have suffered. If there is one significant aspect of social media it’s the crack open the surreptitious mask of abuse.  Historically women questioned women who claimed abuse.  If they could not see a black eye or broken bones, they just did not believe the abuse allegations. It was a lonely place, with a lone voice. I know I was there. Ironically it was mostly girlfriends who disbelieved me. Who questioned my mental state, my intelligence, my state of mind, who turned their backs on me, buying into the abuse. The reality of abuse is that you live in a crazy world that results in driving you crazy. That is the ultimate aim of the mental violence to disable your life.

While the #MeToo movement has been significant in shining a light on abuse, it’s hard to know if this will translate into real change in the lives of women and the attitude of women to the abused.

It would be empowering if women were on the same side if we refused to be pitted against each other if we listened to the lone voice of abuse. Celebrities speaking is having a significant impact, but the jury is out on whether it will encourage others to come forward and talk about their abuse. #Metoo is undoubtedly helping to break down barriers and enabling others to gain the confidence to speak out. Now we need to extend the #Metoo that includes #Webelieve so that survivors can feel safe and find the courage to expose the abuse with no fear of isolation in particular from their friends and society in general.

While it is a positive thing that victims of sexual abuse can begin to feel they can talk about their experiences, this does little to tackle the underlying problem: The abuse itself, its ramifications to individuals and society.  I started a blog a few years ago on abuse and the biggest feedback I received was how brave I was to go public with my abuse and how they wished they had the spirit to do the same.

My response “shared from wise words by author Neil Gaiman”  is always the same;

“[They] count on our shame to keep their secrets. They know that exposing them means exposing our own failings. That’s what makes them so powerful. Telling another human being about what happened to you is a powerful healing force that can dispel the shame of being a victim. Remember, the action belongs to the perpetrator and so does the shame.  ”

The victim feels invaded and defiled, while simultaneously experiencing the indignity of being helpless and at the mercy of another person. The vulnerability of exposing the abuse is the biggest obstacle preventing victims from doing just that. They fear they won’t be believed, they will be ridiculed and their own behavior and mental health will be questioned.

The global reach of #MeToo has been enormous, so time will tell whether this translates into better support and empathy for victims. The taboo around abuse is slowly being taken on, so hopefully increased conversations and education around the subject will pave the way for improved understanding and advocacy of those who have experienced abuse.

I write a poetry blog ‘Poetry on Life’s Journey.” I refer to it as my lifesaving writing.

Eventide  Love – A psychological Thriller Blog to Book based on my story of emotional abuse which was extremely intense and destructive.

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