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Gemma’s Gem of the Week: Silence is Not Golden

Gemma’s Gem of the Week: Silence is Not Golden

TW: Trauma, Sexism, Sexual Harassment

In a society that constantly shames and victim-blames women for the assault, harassment, and traumas inflicted on them, it has become a normality to stay silent as a way to stay safe. I’ve been conversing with more and more women about the topic of sexual harassment, trauma, and abuse, and I noticed many commonalities. We are taught that there are consequences for speaking up.

So many people, myself included, have veered towards silence as the aftermath of many unpleasant, scary situations. In some cases, a lot of people have no choice in the moment. However, what needs to be discussed more is the complete and utter danger that silence teaches us; especially when learned from a young age.

Ever heard of the scenario: Boy teases and harasses Girl. Girl gets upset and tells Someone. Someone tells Girl, “it’s because he likes you!” Yeah…we need to delete this immediately.

The first time I was ever both physically and mentally sexually harassed, I was about 12-13 years old. When I approached my principal and counselors, I was laughed at. Some older kids even threatened to “beat me up” if I continued to run my mouth about it.

Due to the lack of support from this education system, the harassment was normalized, and only grew worse. I started mentally preparing myself for how I would have to handle it every day. I’d prepare to be followed to the bathroom, the stairwell, the bus, all while being called a “slut, whore, bitch, skank.” When I reached out for support, the responses would sound like:

“Are you sure? You could have been imagining that. I’m sure it wasn’t that bad. You know, it won’t look good to spread rumors. You’re being overdramatic.”

My public school taught me that speaking up meant inevitably being painted as the crazy one. I would be the overly emotional, over-dramatic girl who didn’t know what she was talking about. That “boys will be boys;” and that there were inherently consequences for speaking up against one. The lack of action and accountability are not only dangerous to a student’s well-being, but to their overall mentality of sexism and morals moving forward as they transition into young adulthood. Had this administration been more invested in the well-being of its students, many of these actions could have been prevented. Too often, we are told to “wait until it happens again”, or until things get to the worst point to even consider taking action.

To any previous or current students and anyone else who can relate to this article: Know that you’re not going through it alone. The actions of others do not define who you are as an individual. You are forever entitled to a safe space to feel heard and seen. And you are so worthy of healing.

Continuing to reach out to people who are creating safe spaces, such as professionals and therapists, along with those who have experienced similar, have been incredibly healing resources. If these options are not available to you right now, I will be attaching some links on alternate resources below.

I want to continue pushing for stronger, gender-inclusive education that can aid in preventing these experiences. I want people to understand the importance of our voices and healing through sharing our stories. We need to stick together so that we can be the change and support that never came in the times we needed it the most. I firmly believe that we can better educate and advocate for ourselves in ways that will create collective healing. Healing is absolutely possible, and we don’t have to be 100% healed in order for our progress to be valid.

Resources: https://www.rainn.org/national-resources-sexual-assault-survivors-and-their-loved-ones

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

National Sexual Assault Online Chat: https://hotline.rainn.org/online

Personal Resources:

The Daily Shine Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-daily-shine/id1507425010

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Gemma Farquhar is the writer of "Gemma's Gem of the Week" and author of "The Shape of Something New." She is passionate about the future of storytelling and welcomes all ages to her column.

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