My brother has lived in Ecuador for years now. When he read about #MeToo, the social media movement highlighting the prevalence of sexual harassment and silencing in our society, he wrote me an email with the question, ‘You, too?’
I haven’t yet met one woman who can say, “No, not me. I’ve never experienced sexual intimidation or coercion of any kind.” We have all squirmed in discomfort at sexual microaggressions at the very least. Far more women than men are harassed, molested and shamed, yet in 25 years of working as a psychotherapist, I’ve also listened to men who have been sexually assaulted as boys or teenagers.
Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show:
1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse
Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized
When I teach, I keep in mind that 25% of the people in the room at any time may well have suffered the devastating effects of childhood sexual abuse or other sexual trauma. And these tragic statistics are conservative estimates, since such crimes are vastly underreported. I believe genuine mindfulness practice can have significant impact on transforming the ignorance that fosters childhood sexual abuse and violations of all kinds. Mindfulness is a source of conscious, ethical behavior. This is key, for we know that people who are abused as children are much more vulnerable to abuse as adults.
Let’s bring mindfulness and meditation into the heated conversation now unfolding about sexual harassment and its causes. Please let’s listen kindly to each other as we tell our truth, so we can shine the powerful light of awareness on this painful subject. Abuse and harm of any kind thrive in secrecy, silence, and denial. May we cultivate courage, compassion, and healing instead. May we protect the children in our care and create a culture of sexual sanity. May we walk a path of safety and trust for all beings.