TW// Sexual Harassment, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Content
Everywhere you look on the news, there is a new victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence coming forward and sharing their story. No industry is being left undisturbed, from government departments right through to the Hollywood film industry.
As a male friend recently said, "millions of men will be shaking in their boots right now"... as the wave of anger spreads across the planet, and women feel called to speak up and name their abusers.
I won't re-hash all of these stories currently in the news, because you have your news sites for that, but one such article that I recently read was about Chanel Contos, a former student of Sydney’s Kambala girls’ school, who created an online petition calling for consent to be included In Australian Schools' sex education, from a younger age. Thousands of young girls and women have added their testimonies to the petition and I began to read a few of them.
A few hours later... I went about trying to do my work, taking care of admin on the pc. I was distracted though, as I felt this anger and nausea in my belly. I was a little confused because nothing had happened that day to generate these feelings, but then I remembered my 'light morning reading' that I had done earlier that day and it clicked!
I went for a walk and started pondering all the times that I've experienced sexual harassment, and all of the stories that have been shared with me from my clients.
I have always estimated that 1 in 3 of my clients have been sexually abused (and many more harassed), based on their disclosures to me. All but one of them were women. NONE of them had reported the abuse to the authorities.
When I realised this a number of years ago, that really shocked me, because I realised that most sexual abuse goes unreported, therefore the true number of victims remains unknown.
Working with these clients, I noticed that the biggest challenge they all had, was a blocked throat chakra and a lack of being able to 'speak up' in various situations in their lives. I found this interesting, as I was expecting to find a blocked sacral chakra, to do with sexuality and relationships. But this wasn't the case, and many of these clients were in relationships that seemed to be fairly healthy from the outside.
I started to see how these clients had all experienced sexual abuse from someone in a position of power (father, brother, older cousin, family friend, teacher, police officer, boss etc).
They were paralysed from speaking up at the time of the abuse, due to fear and shame, thinking things like:
- "No one will believe me"
- "I don't want to upset my parents"
- "I want to protect my little sister"
- "I don't want to lose my job"
- "It's too embarrassing for me to admit" etc.
If I gently asked them if they would consider pressing charges now, they always said something along the lines of:
- "I just want to move on and forget about it"
- "I don't want to give it any more energy"
- "I'm over it, it's not affecting me anymore" (but it was - they just couldn't consciously see the link between the abuse, the inability to speak up and the loss of personal power and how this affects many areas of their lives)
Of course this is everyone's right to deal with things in their own way and I fully respected their decision.
But I noted again how there must be a number of perpetrators out there, riding the wave of anonymity, due to that the sexual abuse they inflict, comes hand in hand with silence. It's a win-win for them! And if not already deceased or in jail, it is likely that they are continuing to abuse.
It is this knowledge that has made me angry in the past, and what was triggered when I read the article noted above. I value all people having the right to be heard and this need was not being met for so many people.
And this is why I am so excited about the #LetHerSpeak and #LetUsSpeak campaign, led by sexual assault survivor advocate Nina Funnell. This campaign is to abolish sexual assault victim gag-laws in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and, more recently, Victoria. And they are providing a space space for survivors to come forward and share their story.
These campaigns and the many individual stories which are coming to light, are very powerful and are helping to create the changes we need in our society.
So anyway, a week after reading the original article, I had a realisation of my own that really shocked me. I was already conscious of a number of things that I had experienced in the past, which I would call sexual harassment.
However what I have only just realised, is the impact that sexual harassment has had on my business.
I have worked for myself for five years, helping people resolve their emotional, physical or mental health issues and providing guidance on relationships, career and spirituality.
Over the years, I began to experience an increasing number of 'dodgy' calls from men, seeking services other than what I had advertised.
Just some of the things I've experienced include:
1. One guy who called me up and asked if I would go to his house naked, to clear the energy of his home. I actually wrote a funny post about this in 2018 - see below! Or if you would like to read the comments (worth it!) add me as a friend on Facebook and then click here to view the post on Facebook.
2. A man who called and said he has an addiction to sniffing his mothers underwear (yes, really). I like to consider myself an understanding person and if this man truly wanted help with this, I would be happy to do so. We stayed on the line a little as I explained how I could help him, but then I started hearing some strange noises and he became breathless. We hung up, and I talked to my friends about it soon after. My friend said "you do realise he was masturbating don't you?" And I stopped, thought about it, realised she was right and went "EWWWWWWWWWWWW OMG WHAT THE F*CK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE" haha!
3. One guy called and for no reason, turned really abusive and started threatening me and calling me every name under the sun. Of course I hung up, but for several weeks, I received abusive calls from him and his friends. I had blocked his number early on, but he seemed to have a group of men involved who would keep calling under different numbers, doing the same thing.
4. A small number of male clients, who skirt around the edges of what is a professional boundary, with text messages of a flirty nature.
Eventually I stopped answering private numbers and numbers that I didn't recognise. Then I stopped turning on my work phone all together. Then I removed my phone number from all mediums.
Of course this negatively impacted my business because:
1. I am no longer able to receive calls from potential new clients.
2. Existing clients are left confused as to why I am no longer answering calls or texts and I've missed a number of bookings.
Finally, after about 6 months of my work phone being out of action, I am sharing the reason why I am no longer available to be contacted via phone. It is simply not safe and the stress it causes outweighs the benefits.
I can be contacted via emails and social media messages.
The realisation that I had a couple of days ago, was that I had become so used to this incoming, unwanted sexual harassment that it had become 'normal' in my world. I would barely even share these stories with anyone other than my partner, because it 'wasn't a big deal'.
That is what shocked me. The realisation that I've been batting off this insidious energy, and trying to maintain my own life and business all the while. It's exhausting and in my case, I have had to retract my business in order to cope with it.
I wondered how many male consultants out there, had to deal with this ongoing, incoming harassment. Probably not too many. And that is just my personal account of how this toxic energy and culture of sexual harassment can seep into our everyday lives.
I believe 100% that the types of men who make these calls are of a very small minority. I have a number of wonderful male clients and my closest friends are men who I love dearly.
But it is this vocal small minority that makes life very uncomfortable for women, as it can be a constant battleground just trying to do our jobs.
I am very excited about all these changes that are happening on the planet and look forward to the day when women can be in business and feel safe doing their jobs.
Would love to hear from anyone who has had a similar experience?
And from anyone at all who has some comments to share?
With love and hugs,
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Renee Cusworth is a Holistic Coach & Consultant who inspires people to find happiness, purpose and connection. This is done by healing trauma, sharing guidance and teaching self-empowerment tools such as empathy, how to express yourself so that your needs are met and how to resolve conflicts in a connecting way.
Offering 1-1 coaching sessions (online aswell as in person in Perth, Australia) and facilitating Compassionate/Nonviolent Communication workshops aswell as Empathy Groups.