Weekend: Mental Health Moment

By NANCY STEPHANI

Allegations of sexual harassment are in the news almost nightly, with yet another prominent person being accused of improper contact with another.

There are also deniers and minimizers of that abuse, often blaming the victims. I have had friends post on Facebook and ask, “Why didn’t she just say no?” Yet, others ask, “Why didn’t she just scream or yell or push him off?”

Sexual harassment and discrimination take many forms and happen to both genders. I recall my high school guidance counselor, who asked me, “Why do you want to go to college? You are just going to get married and have babies.” He told my younger sister the same thing.

When my brother came next, he informed him, “Your father is deceased. He was a veteran. You live in Ohio. You can go to any state school free — tuition and room and board and books.”

My sister and I were eligible for that same scholarship, but were deemed by him not to be worth the effort.

Most women I know have tolerated sexual comments, innuendos and outright touches and attacks, yet have kept quiet for a variety of reasons.

Many need the money. Others don’t realize they have the right to say “no” or speak out.

Thanks to all the recent allegations, this is no longer the case.

Let’s remember that one out of four women are molested before age 18, so the ability to say “no” or have control was taken away. Research tells us that 65 percent of all pregnant teenagers were molested before age 18. (We should be asking “Who hurt you?” and not saying “Shame on you.”)

Another way of framing that statistic is that they choose to give it away before someone takes it away. They have poor boundaries.

Let’s also recall the financial hardships many women face, particularly single mothers. They need the job. They will put up with what some of us believe to be intolerable conditions in order to put food on the table. Many women and men don’t see their options.

Most of us have had a closet or cupboard where we shoved unwanted stuff, promising ourselves that someday we would clean it out. When that day comes and we open the door, we are usually aghast at the mess we have created. Some react by slamming the door shut, but the healthy reaction is to get to work sorting and cleaning.

We can choose as individuals and as a society to now say, “I believe you.” We can also ask what we can do to help. Many people need help finding and enforcing their own personal boundaries.

Some need permission to say “no,” and all of us as human beings need to know we are not alone.
Simply saying “me too” makes it easier to travel this world we call life by doing it together and making it safer for us all.

I, for one, am grateful that my children can live out their professional lives and my grandchildren can know a world where harassment is less tolerated; where safety and values are honored and valued; and where all can develop and grow in a healthier fashion.

Yes, the allegations are ugly, but just like that messy closet, there is beauty to be unveiled once the smoke clears.

Stephani, coordinator of emergency services at Century Health, is a licensed independent social worker supervisor. She is on professional staff at Ohio State University at Lima. If you have a mental health question, please write to: Mental Health Moment, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay 45839.



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