It’s open season in Hollywood, politics, and beyond, in case you hadn’t noticed.
I’ve been asked by a number of people lately my thoughts on the accusations, allegations, or whatever I should I call them.
“Do you think he did it?” “Why did they wait so long to tell?” “Do you think he should resign from his position?”
My thoughts are fairly simple, but they’re also layered and take some explanation (i.e. this is going to be a long article!). 🙂
First, it’s worth noting that I’m speaking from the perspective of my own personal experience and with the hopes of you (or someone you love who has their own story) being able to move forward, to heal, and to live a really great life. THAT is my sole objective.
I was sexually abused when I was 6 – by a trusted family friend. So, yes, a person who was older than me and had “power” over me, so to speak. Like many, many people we are hearing from now, I kept my story secret for 20 years. Why? Because I was gripped with fear, guilt, and shame. I thought I was at fault somehow and I believed that my life would be ruined if I ever told what “we” had done. I thought I’d devastate my parents and, in turn, ruin my life. (Note – this is extremely common.)
I eventually came to realize I was not at fault, which is hugely important, but is another conversation for another day.
When I finally told my story, I shared it with my parents and no one else. Why? Because I knew that my parents loved me more than anyone on planet earth, hands down. I trust them, and I knew that they would support me. Members of my family were the only ones I shared with, which was vital for my life moving forward.
Down the road, I began counseling when the time was right for me. And, shortly after I began, my counselor, Swede, asked me to write a letter to my offender to “let the (you know what) fly”. This wasn’t a letter I would ever send to my offender – I was simply writing it to air my thoughts. Through this process, I also discovered that I had a whole lot of anger for this guy (honestly, I didn’t know it until I wrote that letter).
After writing it, the next week, Swede asked me to write it again – but this time, he wanted me to include something about forgiveness.
Whew. THAT was a lot to ask for, and something I was actually opposed to at first, because he didn’t deserve forgiveness and had never asked for it (I’m a forgiving person, but this was my one exception). Swede explained that forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with my offender – it’s purely for me. (You can read more about this story here.)
Through the process of counseling, I realized the truth about myself – my innate, unchangeable value and worth – and it changed my life. I was able to heal from my past experiences, own my worth, and live each day looking forward – because my future rocks.
Do you notice the absolutely critical component (or lack thereof) of this story?
If not, take a moment to ponder.
Here’s the critical factor: My offender is completely irrelevant in my success story. He does not play any role or possess any power in my story whatsoever.
It’s true. And it has to be this way – for me, for you, or for the person you love who has experienced sexual abuse or assault.
So, how does this apply to the questions I’ve been asked lately about accusations and allegations?
Well, I’ll answer with another story.
Back when I was dating my now-wife, Ashley, it was pre-Speak Your Silence but I was already working on what would become SYS. One evening, Ash, in her simple but effective way of communicating with me (one of the many reasons I married her), told me, “I think you need to put your money where your mouth is and report your abuse with the police, purely for the sake of creating a paper trail in case anyone else ever comes forward about the same guy.”
I couldn’t argue with her. So, the next day, I called the cops, reported this 20+ year old crime, and ended up being fully deposed and even attempting a confrontation call. And it wasn’t fun.
Why did I do this? To potentially help someone else. That’s all.
My case didn’t go anywhere, which, honestly, was a bit frustrating. Someone mentioned to me the option of filing civil charges, which, I will admit, was enticing at the time. But, the true question was: Would it help me move forward? Is it for Matt to heal and move forward (internal, and completely within my control)? Or, is it simply for Matt to *maybe* get some vengeance (external, and completely beyond my control)? And, if it’s the latter, well, I don’t ever want that to be my motivation for any action, because it’s not forward-focused or life-giving. The answer was clear. I’d done what I could do to safeguard others, and I now needed to focus on my own ability to move forward in healing, forgiveness, joy, and turning my story into an asset that could continue to help others.
Someone else being brought to justice (however you define it), has absolutely no impact on your future and well-being, unless you allow it to. And you’re far, far too valuable for that.
Life comes down to choices. We each have the freedom to choose how we will live, what we will focus on, whether or not we will be joyful or miserable, forgive or hold a grudge. It never feels quite so simple, but it really is our choice.
So, what is my answer to all the questions above? I don’t have one.
I don’t know what happened in any of these cases any more than any of us know. So, I will not play the game of speculating or commenting on things that I simply don’t have the answers to. The stakes are too high. If an individual is guilty of a crime, I hope they are stopped from hurting anyone else and pay a just penalty. Obviously. That goes without saying. And, if an individual is not guilty, I hope their life and career are not damaged by falsity.
Here’s my response to the questions instead: I will listen to, believe, and support each person who has a story and the courage to share it. Period.
I think it takes a heck of a lot of courage to share your story with the risk (or perceived risk) of it ruining your life, your reputation, your relationships, your career. So, for those who have shared, making it possible for others to also share, find freedom, and move forward with their lives – my hat is off to you.
My hope is that each person affected can tell their story in the time, manner, and format that is most healing for them, that will empower them, and will help them move forward and turn their story into an asset to change lives.
I hope the heart is always in the right and healthy place in cases like these, focused on choosing life, and on bringing life to others and protecting those who are vulnerable. I believe that if this is where your heart is, you can’t go wrong.
If you have a story and could benefit from counseling like I did, you can take that important (and bold) step here. And, if you’re not yet ready for that, but want to finally share you story completely confidentially – you can do that here. 🙂