Mirror Mirror - 2019


Our Victims’ Voices Will No Longer be Silenced

By Jennifer Allen

If there's anything that 2018 taught us through all of its ups and downs is that anything is possible as long as you put your mind to something. We came into the year with the usual fresh-faced optimism that always occurs when we flip that calendar from December to January. We put on our seatbelts, strapped on those safety hats, and got ready to dive into another 12 months of insanity.

I'm proud to say that overall 2018 became the year where not being a Caucasian, Christian, heterosexual, 20-to-55-something man meant that you were still doing pretty alright. Actually many of these men (along with some not of the Caucasian, Christian, or heterosexual persuasion) had a not so great year.

We started with two simple hashtags: #MeToo and #TimesUp. This concept was not “new" to our culture, as the fight against sexual assault has been around for well…. forever. However the “Time's Up" movement officially came into being on January 1, 2018. This was created as a reaction to the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations and now offers help to those who need support.

We first heard about it at the 75th Annual Golden Globes as many celebrities wore black and #TimesUp pins to show their support and awareness.

What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I'm especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories." ~ Oprah Winfrey

It was during said Golden Globes telecast that Oprah Winfrey rose up to the stage. The first African-American woman awarded the Cecil B. DeMille award. She looked stunning in her own black dress, and as she walked to the microphone to give her speech, she offered words of wisdom that only Oprah could fully express.

She spoke about first seeing Sidney Poitier win his Best Actor Oscar in 1964. She spoke about all the people who have inspired and believed in her over the years. She thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press. You know the usual things you often hear in an awards speech.

However, when you receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, it is not one of those moments where the orchestra cuts you off after 30 seconds to “keep the show going". Oh no. You stand there and the whole world watches in silence. You have all the time in the world to say what you need to say, with all eyes and ears on every little word.

Oprah took that moment… and she turned that moment into a rousing beacon of hope for all victims. She mentioned Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks. One woman was assaulted and told to remain silent, and decided that she could not. The other supported her, and 11 years later was inspired to remain strong and stay seated on that bus.

“[Recy Taylor] lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. And for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up." ~ Oprah Winfrey

I won't keep gushing about Oprah's speech, but just like Recy Taylor inspiring Rosa Parks, Oprah seemed to set off a chain reaction throughout the world.

Suddenly men who had been known for everything from inspirational teachers to religious leaders were unearthed for their depravity. Some had raped women, others had raped children, and others still had even raped men.

Who would have thought that well known (and well liked) people from Asaram Bapu to Bill Cosby had been leading a double life?

The real question becomes… who is the real monster here? The one who conducts these heinous acts, or the ones who know about them and do nothing? I'm not talking about the victims who were forced to stay quiet. I'm talking about followers, staff, and executives who either turn a blind eye to the abuse, or suppress it.

Larry Nasser comes to mind in this scenario. He was a Doctor for the US Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team while also working at various hospitals and schools. When he started abusing girls is unclear, but the youngest victim was only 6 years-old. He also gets caught in possession of child pornography. Gradually victims from both his career in Gymnastics and as a school physician start to emerge. He's eventually charged for multiple counts of sexual misconduct (40 to 125 years) and child pornography (60 years).

Since his convictions, various others including Coaches, a University President, and members of the US Olympic Gymnastics Committee have been ousted and forced to resign because they knew about Nasser's behavior and took multiple steps, including encouraging victims to not press charges, to keep it out of the public eye.

India in 2018 was named the most dangerous country to live in as a woman due to just how many accounts of sexual violence and slave labor there are. This is frightening, and in 2019 I hope that with the changing view of abuse hitting the world stage, this statistic will change dramatically.

We start 2019 with our heads held high. We now have a voice and those who are willing to listen. We have a whole new year to tell our abusers that enough is enough. 2018 gave us a record number of women taking government positions all over the world. Let's see where they go from here...

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Jennifer Allen works at Saathee and is also a Podcaster, Blogger, Photographer & Graphic Artist.