“Helping you gain control over the things you want to change”
Harvey Weinstein: reflections on #me too and how it has changed the landscape for survivors of sexual harassment and abuse
Posted on 05 September 2019
I notice that Harvey Weinstein is back in the news as the date for his trial gets nearer (it starts January next year). I couldn’t help but notice to be honest and even if I never opened a newspaper or listened to another news bulletin I know because of how it affects the clients who come to me to overcome the impact of sexual abuse or harassment. The stories about Weinstein makes my clients reflect, sometimes bringing back bad memories, sometimes making them feel stronger. This increased focus of sexual harassment in the news also brings new clients to my cognitive hypnotherapy clinic. I specialise in helping survivors of sexual abuse and harassment, so I feel on the frontline here and very sensitive about how the stories of other survivors impact upon them. For many people out there, they will have seen the news and may have become upset. Many will have decided it is time they dealt with issues in their own past.
In the run up to the trial I am going to be blogging here, as well as using my Fiona Nicolson Cognitive Hypnotherapist Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FionaNicolsonCogHyp/?ref=bookmarks
to offer support and deal with issues which arise.
The #MeToo movement was a very positive step
It is difficult to underestimate how much has changed since the revelations about Weinstein and similar figures first emerged. It took some very brave women to say out loud what had been a dirty secret swept under the carpet for years. Without question, this made it easier for other survivors, in countries across the world and in all areas of work and life, to speak up and change things.
This has been a positive step. We haven’t finished yet. Those like me who work in this field know how much there is still left to do. Every day I see the guilt, the pain and the destruction of lives which sexual attack of any sort can cause.
When I am dealing with a client, I often feel we are both in a maze. I know what we ned to do to get out but I am constantly aware of the unexpected turns and circles which the journey out of the maze involves.
How to deal with guilt or self blame following sexual harassment
Many of these paths involve confronting guilt or self blame Clients often ask:
• What did I do which made this happen?
• Could I have acted to stop it?
• Why did it happen to me?
Often, these questions have been running around the client’s head for a long time. And one of my first tasks is to detoxify these questions. Confronting them is a good place to start the process of healing.
One important part of therapy is giving clients the tools to put the blame where it lies. And this is always, no exceptions ever, with the abuser not with the abused.
But for many people this can sound trite. Okay, they say, but where does that get me? Often the next thing the client says shows how they have internalised blame, even if they are not aware of it. That maze they are in is full of guilt. It lurks in the thorny hedges and the dark blocked paths of memory. Clients will say, well okay he shouldn’t have done it but . . . then comes the internalised guilt. Clients say things like:
• I was foolish to go out with that guy, I had a bad feeling about him but I ignored it.
• I should have kept my guard up and not gone back to his apartment
• I was a too ambitious, I just wanted to keep that job, get that gig, move up the hierarchy
• I was a coward. Why didn’t I say no?
I am going to look at all these things in my forthcoming book (due out next year) as well as here on the blog.
Never feel bad about ambition
For today, I want to focus on just one of these, ambition and what can happen when you value your career and want to get that next good opportunity.
In my work I see a lot of clients who work in what we could call ‘gilded jobs’. Those careers which most of us would envy. I know that entertainment and the arts, and other creative industries have featured a lot as we talk more about sexual harassment and abuse and this is reflected in my own client list.
One of my clients, a successful actor, put it this way: “If you work in an area where you know there are dozens of people who would literally do anything to be in your place, do you think differently? I thought for years that I just had to put up with groping, with the sleaze around the industry. I was never raped or seriously attacked, but I still feel I was attacked really. Does having to go to parties with a man you hate, who you need to watch, count? Does having to listen to sexual talk over a one-to-one dinner with a sleazy and powerful guy count? Before #me too I didn’t think so. I now think they do. I know how awful these things made me feel. How they damaged my sense of myself and made it difficult to have proper equal good relationships. I needed therapy with you Fiona, to get there.”
This sums it up for me. I say loud and clear no one should be blamed for ambition or for being successful. It can be very hard to stand up to powerful figures, especially when they seem to be supported by the people around them.
Build self-esteem and trust yourself
Let’s start by saying there is nothing wrong with for ambition. Then let’s be clear that it is not your fault if you got into a difficult situation. I want you to leave those toxic and limiting beliefs behind now and look forward. Two key things to do here, clear the damage the past has done and build the habits and strengths which mean you can protect yourself in the future.
I hope that after some sessions with me, every one of my clients can have a clarity about their feelings, have cleared the damage which was done and now has built the self-esteem to act in their own best interests.
I have a little mantra for my clients here. If something makes you feel uncomfortable do not do it. If someone frightens you or makes you feel sleazy protect yourself. Always remember you know what is best for you.
Confronting bad memories can be liberating
If you have been harassed or abused in the past, it can be painful to confront memories of these experiences. It can also be liberating.
For me, when I accompany clients along this path, I try to help them understand that what they feel is okay. We then work on the guilt and internalisation of blame. I use various techniques to do this, including eye movement therapy and cognitive hypnotherapy. I pay close attention to the client’s own experiences, beliefs and history. I am also aware of how society’s expectations, especially of women, can influence things. This is where the increased discussion of these issues, such as around the Weinstein case can really help. #me too has been fantastic here. It is changing the expectations we have and shining a light on the dark corners and dodgy practices which enabled abusers in the past.
It is very important to know that you are not alone. And it does not matter who you are. Whether you are working in a fast food outlet, running a major company of starring in a Hollywood film you have a right to your own choices, your own sexuality and your own physical and mental integrity.
Sexual abuse and harassment can happen to anyone
We are beginning to understand that there are no excuses for abuse. And we now know that anyone can fall victim to a predator. This may be the most important thing the Weinstein allegations show. It is valuable to see that even the most glamorous, successful and seemingly powerful women may have been subjected to horrible unwanted sexual attention. And in some cases, even with all their apparent power, they found they were unable to stand up to a sexual predator.
This was not their fault. It was not their problem that they went for that interview or accepted that party invitation. We need to create a world where everyone, and that includes ambitious, successful women, has the freedom to meet, to network to access those in power without the risk of sexual assault.
This involves changes in assumptions in our society, and these are happening, perhaps not fast enough but they are happening. It also involves working on ourselves. Here targeted therapy can help. Ego strengthening, developing self-esteem, clearing negative beliefs and other blocks to success are all achievable and can be delivered in a few sessions.
We are getting there. If you feel I could help you then contact me.