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On sexual violence: Why it takes time to come forward

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Over the past week, more than 30 women have come forward to say they were sexually harassed or assaulted by film executive Harvey Weinstein.

As actress Alyssa Milano highlighted this weekend, sexual harassment in the workplace is a lot bigger than one bad seed. Milano called for sexual harassment victims to use #MeToo and share their experiences on social media, and hundreds of thousands of people are telling their stories, many of them from years ago.

So, why does it often take time for victims to either come forward publicly, or to even to come to terms with the event internally?

To find out more about how to identify sexual harassment and abuse Take Two’s A Martinez spoke with Patti Giggans. She's Executive Director of Peace Over Violence and an advocate in sexual violence prevention.

Giggans defined sexual harassment in the workplace as ranging from physical touching to verbal communication to visual images. She told Take Two that it isn’t so much that victims don’t realize what’s happened – it has more to do with the perception that coming forward is more dangerous than staying silent. In order to survive an experience that one feels powerless to change, the mind can compartmentalize that event in order to move past it.     

“Really recognizing what happened and how actually traumatized you might have been, or how you changed how you lived your life, or how you perform in your job, has to do with a real understanding of what trauma is,” Giggans said.     

Giggans said that while many have been advocating for awareness, the recent flood of stories is making it safer for others to come forward, and they’re doing so not just for their own healing, but to make a difference for others.

“They’re not necessarily going to have any redress for their particular situation over so many years,” Giggans said. “But the fact that they see there’s an opportunity to change the culture that minimizes these kinds of things is quite important.”

Want more information or to talk with someone about sexual harassment?

Reach out to a crisis center like Peace of Violence or call the RAINN hotline at 800-656-4673

To hear the full interview with Patti Giggans, click on the media player above.