You’re taking the bus home from work. It’s winter so it’s already dark. You’re waiting at the bus stop, and someone walks toward you asking for money. You say you don’t have cash on you. Instead of leaving, the person gets too close, pulls out a knife and stabs you in the side, then runs off. The wound is deep. The pain is overwhelming. You press your clothing to the wound to try and stop the bleeding.

You decide to just go home. You don’t call the cops. You go home and stuff a ton of paper towels in the wound, and even though it’s throbbing like mad, you go to sleep. You toss and turn all night.

You wake up the next morning and sitting up in bed makes the wound start to bleed again. But you have to go to work, so you cover up the wound and go to the office anyway.

You ignore the pain.

You don’t look at the wound to see how bad it is.
You don’t tell the cops.
You don’t go to the doctor.
You don’t tell your friends or family.

Every day that goes by, the wound gets more painful and more infected.
You finally tell a close friend that you got stabbed long after the fact. You show him the wound.

Your friend yells, “You need to go to the doctor right now!”

And you say, “Yeah, it hurts a lot and I think it’s infected. But I’m okay, I’ll be fine…”

Now, does this story sound realistic? 

I certainly hope not. If this happened to you, I hope you’d call the cops, report the crime and see a doctor to get medical attention. I hope you’d get help.

Unfortunately, we treat sexual harassment and assault exactly like the story above. 

We get hurt and we don’t speak up. We internalize our pain for weeks, months, years and in many cases a lifetime. As a result of not talking about it, we pass the pain and victim-based-mentality onto the next generation.

The criminal isn’t held accountable. We don’t get help. And it keeps happening.

But that is changing. 

The campaign ‘’Me Too’ has swept across social media by storm. So many women have pulled the curtain back and revealed that sexual harassment or assault has also happened to them.

It was your sister, your mother, your wife or girlfriend.
Even your daughter.
It was you.

So many of us have posted ‘’me too,’ in the hopes of bringing awareness to the astronomical number of women who are affected by this. To no longer conceal the truth.
To no longer view even talking about it as hush-hush taboo.
No more. 

However, after this social media storm rolls through, what’s going to happen after the fact? 
So many women are coming out about this to show the severity of the situation,

but then what?

Do we quickly forget the severity of it, and go back to liking puppy pics and hashtagging #PumpkinSpiceEverything?

I hope not. 

I understand, and deeply empathize how difficult it is for a women to come forward about being harassed or assaulted. When it happens, we often don’t know how to handle it, especially in the moment.

It’s scary. It is downright frightening.

And my heart breaks for every woman who has had to endure this. 

When it happens, we wonder if anything can really be done about it anyway. 

Or if we do say something, what if he retaliates and makes our life a living hell? 

What if it’s a co-worker or boss who already holds power over us?

We think, maybe we should just internalize it and ‘’not make a big deal out of it.’ 

We’re afraid. We’re confused. 

These fears are not helpful to our healing. They are not helpful to protect another woman from going through it too. 

Even though coming forward is hard, and dealing with deep emotional pain and trauma is terrifying- if you’re a woman who has experienced this, you must ask yourself NOW WHAT if you want to get better. 

You must ask yourself NOW WHAT if you want to heal. 

You must ask yourself NOW WHAT if you want to make a difference in changing our culture for the better and making sure this doesn’t happen to someone else. 

Dealing with pain and trauma is not easy.
It’s certainly not as simple as only ‘’thinking positive thoughts.’

We must allow the reality and pain to surface. We must cope with it. Ignoring our pain will only drive it deeper down, and we will adopt destructive coping behaviors as a result, such as turning to alcohol.

Seek support from family and friends, get support from a therapist. 

Please, don’t ignore it.

If this has happened to you, please file a report. Tell someone.

Do something about it. 

If we ignore it we are protecting the abuser. Simple as that. We are protecting his behaviors, saying what happened is acceptable. If he’s not held accountable for his actions, he’ll do it again, to you or someone else.

Being victimized is horrible. It gives you a deep pit in your stomach, and a crushing weight on your shoulders. 

As victims, we are not to blame for what happened “to” us.

But, we are responsible for what happens next.

It is up to us to deal with our trauma and emotions. To not stuff it down and resort to destructive behaviors. 

Ignoring it, stuffing the emotions down, and not speaking up keeps us victims.
It keeps our future generation victims.  

I am not saying you must make a public Facebook announcement, but I am encouraging you to deal with the pain, speak up (however that means to you) and take steps to get better. 

In order to truly heal and live an empowered life, we must face our pain and we must take action. 

So, Now what?

***please note that I realize this conversation is bigger than a ‘man versus woman’ issue. If you’re a male who has been victimized, the same encouragement applies to you. In my writing, I use the word woman as the victim and man as the abuser because it holds true for my personal experience.***

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