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Domestic Violence: Sexual Abuse, a guest blog

*If you are reading this and think you might be in a domestic violence situation, know that it can be dangerous if your abuser finds you on this page. Be prepared to close this page quickly and erase your history for your own safety. For more information on keeping yourself safe online, visit https://www.techsafety.org/resources *

Aegis Counseling is happy to present this gust blog from Karla Payne. Karla is currently the Executive Director of Open Arms Rape Crisis Center and LGBT+ Services. She is from San Angelo and graduated with a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Angelo State University in 1994. Her experience and employment includes starting as a volunteer with the rape crisis center then moving into the positions of Education Coordinator, Victim Services Specialist and Executive Director; QMRP at the San Angelo State School (State Assisted Living Facility); Program Director at the Brazos Valley Rape Crisis Center; Child Protective Services; the Tom Green County Children’s Advocacy Center as a CASA Case Manager, Forensic Interviewer and Parent Mentor; and as a therapist at Samaritan Counseling Center (West Texas Counseling & Guidance). She left the rape crisis center in 2003 to pursue her licensure and other interests and has been back at the center since 2011. She also teaches Psychology and Sociology classes at Park University at the Goodfellow Air Force Base campus. Karla is very passionate about social justice issues, equality and promoting peace.

Karla was kind enough to share this piece with our readers:

As the Executive Director of Open Arms, the rape crisis center in San Angelo, I have so much to say about the recent news of the sexual harassment/assault allegations coming out of Hollywood. For people like my staff and me, this is not something new. Sexual harassment and sexual assault have been problems for decades. However, I understand that people who aren’t in this field may look at this as something new and very confusing. First of all, let me educate those people about the dynamics of sexual harassment/assault/abuse. Sexual abuse is not just a misunderstanding between the victim and the perpetrator. There is usually a very distinct power differential. When perpetrators are celebrities, athletes, directors, producers, employers, parents, etc. the victim most often feels like she* has to submit to that power differential. Sometimes the perpetrator doesn’t have to say anything; it’s understood that the victim better not talk. Let me give you some examples. When a young aspiring actress wants to get work in a place like Hollywood, she has to know the right people and do the right things. When a celebrity such as Bill Cosby (who was also a producer) says, “I have influence in this industry and I can get you into this TV show or movie. Come by my hotel room and I’ll help you go over some scripts”, any actor would jump at the chance. Bill Cosby is often mistaken for the roles that he plays. People think of him as the exciting, likeable secret agent from I Spy and later as the loveable dad, Cliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show. He was the first black actor to have a lead role in a television series and to win an Emmy in a TV series. He also won 5 Grammys for his comedy. Who wouldn’t trust this guy? This is exactly the way perpetrators think. They know they have power. They know people will like them and trust them. And because they know that, they believe that whatever they do, they will get away with it. His victims most likely thought that they wouldn’t be believed over someone like Bill Cosby. And if they said something, he would just deny it and it would be their word against his. What were your first thoughts when you heard that Bill Cosby had been accused of sexual assault? Was it ‘there’s no way Bill Cosby would do such a thing!’ or ‘these women just want attention’ or ‘these women want to get him in trouble for some reason, shame on them!’ or ‘why did they wait so long to say something?’ And why did it take over 60 women with similar accusations against him for people to believe that he did this?

When you are an employee and need to contribute to a household income and put food in your children’s mouths and your employer expects certain ‘perks’ or else he will get rid of you because there is always someone else waiting for your job, you tend to submit because you really need this job. Oh, and he says that he will ruin your name and reputation if this ever gets out.

When you’re a 14 year old girl and accept a ride home from the assistant district attorney after court where you were the focus of a custody battle and on the way he stops and sexually assaults you then tells you that if you say anything he will ‘ruin your family’, you don’t tell anyone.

I feel like I need to give specific examples because it’s too easy to distance ourselves from these stories. Well, I’m not an actress; I can always get another job; I wouldn’t have accepted a ride from someone I didn’t know. We feel that if we can find something wrong with what the victim did, then if we don’t do that wrong thing, we will never be sexually assaulted. The problem of sexual assault will be solved. But the problem with sexual assault are the perpetrators, not the victims. Until we have people in power who don’t feel entitled to take whatever they want without any consequences, we will have sexual assault. It’s a power trip to make someone do something you want them to do. Sexual assault is about abuse of power and control over someone more vulnerable. It’s not about the sex. Sexual acts are the weapons they wield.

When the news about Matt Lauer came out, Megyn Kelly made a great point. She said “when this happens, what we don’t see is the pain on the faces of those who found the courage to come forward. And it is a terrifying thing to do. We don’t see the career opportunities women lose because of sexual harassment—or the intense stress it causes a woman dealing with it when she comes to work each day. We are in the middle of a sea change in this country. An empowerment revolution, in which women who for years have felt they had no choice but to simply deal with being harassed at work are now starting to picture another reality—to feel that change is within their grasp. As painful as this moment is for so many here at NBC today, at CBS earlier this month, at Fox News over the last year, in Hollywood this fall, it is a sign of progress. Of women finding their voices, their courage. And of the erosion of a shameful power imbalance that has been in place for far too long.”

The majority of men are not sexual predators. The majority of men are good. It’s the few who choose to victimize others through the abuse of power and entitlement that make it difficult for women to trust any man.

If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse, or have been affected in any way by some sort of sexual violence, please reach out to someone who will support you. Sexual abuse is not just a one-time, get-over-it event that happens. It can affect some people for the rest of their lives. There is hope available. Open Arms offers a crisis hotline, hospital accompaniment, advocacy, counseling, support groups and other services. There is no shame in being a victim of sexual violence. You did NOTHING wrong. You deserve to be heard and to be supported. Call us. We’re here for you.

*the majority of perpetrators are male and the majority of sexual assault victims are female, but this in no way means that EVERY perpetrator is male and that EVERY victim is female.


For more information on Open Arms and the services they provide, click here.