Sexual Assault and the Power of Speaking the Truth

by Cindy Cole, LMFT, LPC, Director of Primary and Family Therapy

rsz_mihai-surdu-415698It seems as if every day another sexual abuse story explodes in the media. Although politics and entertainment often figure prominently in the headlines, as recently as this past week another scandal came to light directly linked to the US Olympics. Evidently, young female gymnasts were routinely experiencing sexual assault from the team doctor.

The #metoo campaign grew out of sheer outrage to revelations like this one. Thousands of women have shared their stories of sexual trauma and abuse typically suffered throughout their professional careers and/or lives.

At Timberline Knolls, we primarily treat women and girls with eating, substance and mood disorders, but the vast majority have experienced trauma, often sexual. In other words, if we asked for a show of hands as to how many of our residents would say “MeToo,” it would take quite a while to count them all. Restricting food, drinking to excess, experiencing crippling anxiety or depression are often adjuncts to these devastating emotions as is a high level of secrecy. Keeping secrets only makes everything worse.

In a recent article in the New York Times, swimmer Diana Nyad told of the sexual molestation she repeatedly endured from her high school coach. She did not fully disclose the details until the age of 21 when she finally “found her voice.” For Nyad, making the horror “speakable” proved as liberating and helpful as the abuse proved painful and humiliating.

We hope that the #metoo movement is only the beginning of women finding their voices on a massive scale. Silence eats away at a woman’s soul, daily reinforcing her misplaced guilt and shame. Speaking the truth breaks the bondage of these emotional chains and is the first step toward wholeness and recovery.

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