Our stories are not yours to use and throw away.
As a survivor of sexual abuse, I'm disgusted to see how the stories of survivors are being used as political ammunition instead of impetus for change and compassion.
Instead of debating what is or isn’t “locker room talk", like Donald Trump insists, or yelling about whose behavior is more repugnant, I would urge us all to take a moment and recognize that in this moment of chaos and turmoil many thousands of victims of all genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds have found the courage to step forward and say “I was abused too".
Author Kelly Oxford's #NotOkay Twitter hashtag about the sexual violence women had experienced in their lives was powerful and horrifying, but incredibly important.
This is so important for two reasons:
First, the shame and stigma surrounding sexual victimization keeps many survivors silent for decades, like Amber Tamblyn, who just told a powerful and horrifying story of an assault she survived.
Second, we cannot change the toxic norms that create the "locker room" mentality until we recognize that sexual violence is a much, much bigger problem than is normally seen.
The research on sexual abuse in all areas is clear and should be well-known. In short, victims of sexual abuse surround us. But the vast majority of survivors keep their victimization silent for a host of reasons.
Men, women, boys, and girls deal with sexual harassment, misconduct, rape and abuse in the workplace, in locker rooms, in their barracks, and often in the privacy of their own homes.
The research is so clear, it shouldn't even have to be debated. But if you doubt it, check out this research from the CDC.
It would be naïve of me to think that in the midst of one of the most toxic and controversial presidential elections in history that we can truly change our response to sexual abuse overnight.
But I have hope that perhaps the attention this moment is bringing to the issue can help us who are survivors and advocates plant some informational seeds.
Survivors of sexual violence deserve more than what this campaign has given us. We aren't your political tools, to be trotted out when you need us, and then just forgotten.
If you are a survivor of abuse or sexual violence, hope and healing are possible. Check out the resources below for support:
Christopher Anderson is a survivor of sexual abuse, domestic violence and other forms of trauma. He is an author and peer advocate for survivors and expert on the emotional impact of trauma on men and boys. He is a board member of malesurvivor.org.