Conquering the Cycle of Shame

janeellen
Posted November 19, 2019 from United States

It’s not power, influence or money that silences women who have suffered gender violence or sexual abuse. A woman’s shame is the best weapon that a predator has against her. The type of shame that comes from being so degraded that you don’t even want to admit to yourself that you were a part of anything so humiliating.

As a professional woman in high-tech for over three decades, I’ve experienced numerous incidents of gender-based violence. At one of the world's leading computer companies, myself and a group of five other women raised our voices against a sexual predator in the workplace. It was only by chance that we all shared our experiences of the inappropriate, sexual advances from this senior-level executive (someone who was also once a manager of my husband). Just one brave moment of mentioning an incident to another woman in the office started a chain reaction that helped the other victims find their voices and reveal a pattern of abuse by this man that had been going on for years. 

We all were heard by the company’s management and the man was asked to resign with a generous severance package. We women who found the courage to come forward were forced to sign a non-disclosure keeping us from ever speaking to anyone about what had happened with this man. So he was free to begin his cycle of sexual abuse and intimidation all over again at another company.

As part of overcoming my own shame from the gender violence I’ve experienced in my life, I volunteered to help young girls who were also abuse victims to find their own voices. I started a journaling workshop at a residential and treatment facility in Arlington, Massachusetts for girls under the age of 17, who had suffered unimaginable sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Journaling and creative writing gave these girls a safe way to express their personal trauma and, hopefully, the courage to start a new story of their lives.

Here is a poem that 16-year old “N” wrote in the workshop about leaving her shame and finding herself:

Boxing

I saw myself inside again, inside my little box. Slowly everything is getting rough. I put up my best fight, but I had enough.

I sit in the darkness within myself. Undiscovered  Uninspired   Under pressure I crept back inside, fought my hardest but won no pride. I have no guidance in this world of mine. Only four sides to hide the woman I was then.

Me and her, we grew apart; her misery broke my heart.

I began to come out of myself once again.

Deep inside my box, I’m no longer in.

There is an escape from the shame of gender-based violence and sexual abuse. Finding the courage and strength to use your voice is the first step toward freedom.

This story was submitted in response to #IStandWithHer.

Comments 7

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Marie Abanga
Nov 19
Nov 19

Loads of courage, thanks for sharing dear

Jill Langhus
Nov 20
Nov 20

Hi Jane Ellen,

Congrats on sharing your inspiring first post, dear! I'm so glad that you found your voice against that office predator, and that you found solidarity with your peers, too. It is concerning, however, that he will just pick up somewhere else, though, isn't it?

I'm also impressed that you have started this journaling workshop? Are you starting a new "career" or is this something that you wanted to do to give back to society? I'm curious because I'm probably in a similar boat as far as longevity in the workforce, and I'm also curious by nature, too:-) I hope you keep it up because I think it's helping these girls.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about what you're passionate about, too.

You may want to consider submitting this post for the current story call, "#IStandWithHer?" This is the link:
https://www.worldpulse.com/raise-your-voice/istandwithher

Hope you have a great, rest of the week!

maeann
Nov 20
Nov 20

Hi Jane Ellen,

Welcome to World Pulse.

I agree to what you said and I quote: Finding the courage and strength to use your voice is the first step toward freedom.

And in this platform we use our voice through sharing our stories.

Continue your journal and use it to inspire and create a voice.

Beth Lacey
Nov 20
Nov 20

This is good work you are doing

Hello, Jane Ellen,

How brave you are really! I'm glad you finally wrote your first post.

Your story shows how powerful it is when women come together to speak their truth, "Just one brave moment of mentioning an incident to another woman in the office started a chain reaction that helped the other victims find their voices and reveal a pattern of abuse by this man that had been going on for years. "

I'm sorry that you were made to sign a non-disclosure agreement though. What are they protecting the perpetrator? He could victimize more women wherever he is right now. *Sigh*

I'm glad that you are helping girls to speak up, too. Yes, please submit this story for the Story Awards #IStandWithHer.

Please continue to write. Have a great day!

Anita Shrestha
Nov 21
Nov 21

Thank you for sharing

Jacqueline Namutaawe

Hello Jane
A woman’s shame is the best weapon that a predator has against her. The type of shame that comes from being so degraded that you don’t even want to admit to yourself that you were a part of anything so humiliating......very profound and true to note. Thank you for standing up against sexual abuse.