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A Response To Matt Damon's Polemic Different Levels Of Sexual Abuse.


Before the #metoo movement swept collective conscience like a storm, I had already written an article entitled ‘All Men Are The Same’ in which it was suggested that it's time for men to listen to the major outcry against sexual harassment against women, initially originated behind Hollywood’s screens, but that has been proven to be a problem everywhere else in the world. Today is perhaps necessary to give a step forward, not suggesting, but telling men to simply to say nothing at all. It seems that before someone experiences the amazing qualities of silence, one must first learn not to say anything. We don't always have to comment on everything to show our 'wisdom'. There's more wisdom in silence than there could ever be in words. 

Pay attention to the silent people.

When we give an opinion on something we don't know of; in this case due to lack of personal experience, we only contribute negatively to increase the noise of the world, which in turn stops the appropriate spaces in which people can explore their emotions freely and healthily. The noise of the world or the mindless contribution to it are passive, sometimes not so passive aggressive forms of expression that keep, not only the human being, but collective consciousness low. 

If you feel as you've never been neither heard, nor seen, that no one understand you, it is the same principle. Everyone has an expert opinion on your life before you speak. 

Stirring collective conscience might have not yet made much difference in some people, but it has certainly planted a seed for change.

The following article is a response to actor Matt Damon’s reply, who said "that there was “a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation. Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated.” 

His comment was followed by Minnie Driver’s response arguing that “men “simply cannot understand what abuse is like on a daily level” and should not therefore attempt to differentiate or explain sexual misconduct against women.

While it could be argued that it’s true to a certain degree that such behaviours may appear to be different types of abuse, what men and society in general cannot yet grasp is that the trauma suffered by a victim of any abuse, being this sexual, or any other kind cannot be in any way diminished by comparing it to another, which is supposedly more traumatic.

Trauma is not a competition. It’s time for everyone to take a step back, breathe deeply and hold a moment or a lifetime of silence while examining collective and personal conscience. Coincidentally, this article caught me writing a related blog post, which is a guideline on how to listen to trauma, in order to assist others in their healing process and which can be found below.

There cannot be a shift in consciousness, if conscience is not shifted before. It’s a necessary step.

Much work needs to be done, so as to change beliefs and behaviours that facilitate equality for all. A world without equality will never provide for all the necessary elements that contribute to create a thriving society that serves everyone’s needs. While everyone plays a different part in society, and some may consider themselves outsiders or against the system; everyone is society.

The fact that someone might believe that they’re above, morally superior to others or simply outsiders, is the loud representation, somehow histrionic and neurotic, of a narcissistic society in which almost everyone is crying out for attention and popularity.

Silence is an extraordinary source of wisdom and knowledge in which an individual can develop empathy, kindness, courage or love, to name a few of the qualities that so absent seem to be in this world. Qualities that otherwise everyone has, but which cannot be exercised, nor developed, for as long as, everyone insists on imposing their story. Your story is important and must be told in order to heal and develop, but there is a time and place for this and for everyone.

Diminishing someone’s trauma as Matt Damon did it’s a clear sign that men are not listening, but neither are a large number of women who take the same stand on this issue. In his case, this argument is even more aggravating, as due to fame and social status, he’s a role model to many to follow. Considering that most opinions and 'knowledge' are formed these days from what we hear from others, everyone could do with pausing and thinking of the consequences of their words before they speak, not just Matt Damon. Sexual abuse in its many different forms is a plague that affects women daily; a problem that society has not yet done anything to solve. Patriarchal society is a big bully that continues promoting this kind of behaviour by not proposing solutions such as education. It seems more important to learn how to pass an exam with knowledge that will never be used after school than to teach children or people what it means to be human.

Sexual abuse in children is also endemic. The cruelty and ignorance of the human being seems to have no limits. 

Patriarchy oppresses children, women and men in different ways, but it does oppress everyone. Denying its existence, as many men do, is simply a coping mechanism, which conveniently allows the continuance of rape culture.

Trauma affects everyone in different ways, and what it might not be perceived as traumatic by someone, it could and does represent a serious burden to someone else. It’s impossible to compare. Every trauma is important to whoever is dealing with it daily. 

Years ago, in a conversation with a friend with whom I became very close during a series of retreats, he told me that his trauma was small compared to mine, almost being apologetic for allowing such ‘trivial trauma’ to influence his life in the ways it did. My response then was the same that it is now: trauma affects the individual according to their experience. My trauma is not bigger or smaller than yours; just different. What it might appear to be trivial, hides depths not always perceived by the untrained eye, but that it can have terrible consequences to the person experiencing the trauma.

It would have been easy to accept that my experience was worse than his, due to the fact that it had more special effects, more violence, more physical, emotional and psychological pain. It would have certainly added drama to it, a sense of self-importance, as if traumas were intrinsic talents to a person. Removing the mine-is-bigger-than-yours-element helped to establish equality, and by doing so it was possible to create the synergy that allowed us to learn from and support each other; and in time, to build the trust and necessary common ground to give each other feedback.

In regards to sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape, the same principle applies. It’s not possible for anyone to establish how an incident affects a woman, nor the depth or consequences of it, as it is a unique personal experience. It is precisely someone’s experiences what determines the reach of the trauma and its consequences. No one knows what is like breaking a leg until it breaks. Some people have more resistance to pain than others, different age or are mentally stronger or weaker than others. The elements and circumstances are numerous, therefore, it is impossible to know unless it’s their own experience. The point is that every fracture is different, and so is every person.

There are two important facts that men are missing. One is that the actions of one man reflects on other men. Any incident involving sexual abuse on a woman is inevitably followed by a series of triggers that other men would have to face and deal with at some point in their relationships, as any woman who has gone through such an experience would have developed an array of reactions to them, which in most cases is represented as rejection, especially in intimate relationships.

Having to face or deal with the consequences mentioned above, doesn’t remotely resemble what a victim of sexual abuse has to go through. It takes a high level of maturity and emotional intelligence to be able to hold a space for a woman to feel safe again. In most cases, this would not happen overnight, for which reason men will face rejection numerous times. It’s hard for anyone to know how to deal with rejection, not to take it personally. In the majority of cases, a man is paying for another man’s mistakes and wrongdoings. Mistakes not being always mistakes, but deliberate actions. Rejection opens up more triggers, turning a loving relationship into a nightmare or even end it. Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? Well, that!

The fact that men have to deal with the emotional, psychological or physical damage left behind is no reason to feel sorry for any man, but to begin to take responsibility, so as to set the parameters for a healthier, kinder and more loving society. You might have never been the perpetrator, but remaining silent or not taking action to correct certain types of male behaviour, somehow makes us all co-participants. 

It’s both, discouraging and infuriating to hear a woman resigned the world's current reality that she has not been raped, followed by a fearful silence in hope that it never happens, but accepting that it's a possibility. The threat is always there, and unconscious and psychopathic men to perpetrate such actions are everywhere. 

The second fact is that many men are moved by a sense of entitlement, especially in romantic relationships to push and go beyond these boundaries with the belief that they’re not like other men. In many instances, what happens behind doors in relationships equals rape or borders it, creating or adding to the trauma. If you do it, you are like those men. Believing something else is just another exhibit of narcissistic behaviour.

This sense of entitlement speaks of a boy that has not yet found the emotional maturity that makes him a man.

Matt Damon also compared allegations against Weinstein, Al Franken, Kevin Spacey and Louis CK. He commended Louis CK for his remorse, adding that he “couldn’t imagine that he would do those things again."

Such comment somehow removes culpability from Louis CK’s predatory behaviour, as well as further humiliating his victims. Admittance and remorse opens a space to change behaviour, but this type of comments has become part of our popular culture in a society that so far has not only not given credibility to victims of sexual abuse, but that has failed miserably to create the appropriate channels to eradicate these types of behaviour.

Victim shaming is also a living part of rape culture. 

As men, we cannot decide the degree of damage on a woman because we just don’t know what it feels like. The fact that we may think that we know only makes us a bunch of ignorant, opinionated narcissists. It's neither an original thought, nor a good analysis of the situation, but a defence mechanism to guilt by association, meaning that if you are a man, at any time you can be suspected of ill behaviour. It’s far too many the number of women who have been sexually abused in one way or another what leads to the fact, and it is a fact, that the number of perpetrators is larger than what we've been led to believe, as sexual harassment or rape is "something that happens to other people are committed by other people." It's never me, nor us. It's always the others. This ignorant belief can be applied to almost everything, creating a general apathy in taking responsibility to create a better self and consequently a better world.

During the last 30 years I've listened to the testimonies of sexual abuse of hundred of women, and I can say that sometimes all a woman needs is to find the space to be able to talk freely, without judgment.  

At some point, men, and people in general, have to realise that we have a responsibility towards others. Everyone, that is! Taking responsibility doesn’t mean that we are responsible for the actions of others, but that we show up in our own lives being the best version of ourselves. To achieve the best version of ourselves takes time and effort. It’s not a stage that can be reached by giving mindless opinions on subjects that we know nothing of.  

The road to recovery is often a solitary path. Let's not make it harder by making women, men or children feel that they've never been heard, that no one listened to them. 

This article is not to condemn Matt Damon's character, nor overall behaviour -it's understandable why he said what he said-, but to encourage others to reflect on the reality of the situation and the power that our opinions might have on others. As this was an isolated incident, not a campaign to teach others, it is and should be treated as such. Let's not be too quick to judge someone's entire life, character and behaviour for one opinion, one incident, one belief. Everyone is entitled to make mistakes, as we are to learn from them. 

Related articles:

Listening to, and assisting in healing trauma. 

The Beauty and Shame of the Female Body.




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