We can moan about the news being depressing, and wait for the human-interest story (always lighter) before the weather forecast, but right now I’m going to be in-your-face and focus on something not particularly palatable and yet vital. If you are not aware, you should be.
Here in Australia, Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped in Parliament.
A trickle of women also alleging this kind of misconduct has become almost a river, with tales of such behaviour including, in one instance, a male member of parliament with photographs of himself masturbating over a female member of parliament’s desk. Australian women are understandably angry and in truth often overwhelmed by all these happenings, knowing that these forms of harassment and violence are sadly commonplace and happen throughout different types of work place/industries.
Every country has the same problem. We talk about the glass ceiling being shattered by the likes of Kamala Harris in US and Julia Gillard in AU but these events have not changed the laws nor reduced sexual assault, harassment, violence and bullying in both the workplace or the home.
Until you consider Grace Tame. Not that long ago in Tasmania, Australia there was a law enforcing a GAG order on sexual assault victims. Can you imagine not being able to discuss or work through sexual assault as a victim?
Grace Tame refused to be silent following her own assault and began the #LetHerSpeak campaign which led to the changing of this law. Spearheading the Australian #WeToo movement she said “I came forward with my story to hopefully protect other women.” Her tireless campaigning and refusal to sit quietly and suffer the hidden impacts have made a difference.
Australia seen by many as a free, gentle, environmentally friendly country, but it carries within it more than one area of shame. High levels of sexual assault, bullying and violence is reported by women (sadly, hardly by male victims), which all prove to be traumatic through their outcomes as well as the initial event and the victims are often not believed or blamed in some way. (This is a problem that especially affects indigenous people not just in the work place but also domestically.)
“There is a distinct lack of support for First Nations women who are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised for family violence than a non-indigenous adult,” writes Stephen Saphore of the AAP
I’m personally still smarting from when one of the Australian Defence Chiefs in a statement warned women about alcohol and being attractive?????
Sexual assault, bullying, harassment and violence are not just isolated events in someone’s life. There are short, medium and long-term impacts. From anxiety, fear, reaffirmation of the assumption of being a devalued person, feelings of low self-esteem, suicidal ideation right through to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are only a few of the possible outcomes. With these effects follows, very often, a breakdown in relationships, inability to work, loss of income - the list begins to spread, the impact stretches.
“A range of US studies have found that between 35% and 57% of community-based samples of rape victims suffer from PTSD at some point in their lifetimes.” (The Impact of Sexual Assault on Women, Cameron Boyd).
We are used to discussing the psychological impacts of these behaviours but let’s also not forget the physical impacts that can result from an assault. Eating disorders, unwanted pregnancy and having to debate/face termination of such, IBS, pelvic pain, headaches, gynaecological symptoms to name but a few. The result of sexual assault, bullying, violence and harassment affects the victims mentally and physically.
I can’t help but think that it is necessary to change the way society views these behaviours and their victims.
“I was emotionally distraught but was made to feel it was unimportant by male police.” (Anonymous, 1994)
If you want a US face to all this, please consider the late Daisy Coleman who committed suicide at the age of 23 after she was (allegedly) assaulted when she was 14 in Missouri. Please take your time to watch the 2016 Netflix original documentary about sexual assault on teens called “Audrie and Daisy.”
How are we going to bring about change in Australia when even our Prime Minister denies when he clearly and publicly bullied a female CEO? We need generational change. We need to leave the Boomers behind with all their inherited bad habits and attitudes and take up the mantle of the #MeToo and #LetHerSpeak aware, both male and female.
Will it get better in Australia? Probably. Eventually it will have to but it will take time to crack the misogynists’ power in our society. I hate to use the word “hope” because, by implication, there could be failure but right now, it’s all I have.