So much has happened since the decades of abusive behavior by Harvey Weinstein were exposed, an endless stream of new revelations and disturbing discoveries followed by responses like the #MeToo movement. Now we are talking more and more about the backlash, being asked will this go too far, what are the pitfalls. The reality is, some people will always push back, no matter how well-meaning or properly handled things are, some people will never want to hear about it. The real change has been that eyes are opened, something that can’t go back. Instead of backlash, the real pitfall is exhaustion.
It just keeps coming. We become overwhelmed and things that would have been a huge deal float by. It’s shocking to see the level of coverage of the abuses suffered by female USA national team gymnasts. Dozens and dozens of young female athletes were sexually assaulted under the guise of treatment for decades. This would have been front page news for months in the past, young women we prize and idolize harmed by an adult responsible for caring for them.
It is genuinely horrifying. A popular concept among sexual assault advocates and in similarly taxing fields is self-care, the need to protect and replenish your reserves. This can obviously be in peaceful, restful activities. But action is its own self-care. You can see this in the impact statements made in the USA gymnastics case, in Aly Raisman telling Larry Nassar, “You do realize now the women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time are now a force, and you are nothing.”
If the stream of headlines exhausts you, turns your stomach and causes you to avert your eyes, take care of yourself by taking action to care for others. Verity, Sonoma County’s Rape Crisis Center, is waiting for you to volunteer. You don’t have to be an expert or a lifer. A few hours a week makes a difference. Our prevention education department goes to middle and high schools all over the county and teaches youth about healthy relationships, consent, and online life. Our board of directors is full of people from all walks of life. That can be you, getting to these kids before it’s too late before everything is entrenched or out of your hands. For six years I worked in Bronx Family Court as an attorney for abused and neglected children. Family members stepped in to help no matter how much they already carried, social workers and advocates worked through the harrowing details of these kids lives and a lot of vulnerable young people were saved. But even with all those stories of things getting better, on a different level, it was always too late. Prevention education doesn’t leave the same images, the same stories as intervention work. Its successes can be invisible, and that’s the goal, to take future headlines off the front page and replace them with the quieter, healthy lives that our children deserve.
Zach Neeley is Verity’s Prevention Education Specialist. Before being a Prevention Education Specialist, he was Verity’s Coaching Boys into Men Facilitator, where he worked with coaches and sports teams to promote healthy masculinity and end sexual violence among young athletes. You can email Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org