As a child, I was taught to keep family business private. Not that I fully understood the reasons. I just intuitively knew which information not to share with teachers, bill collectors, neighbors and certain family members. Whether good or bad or right or wrong, I was taught how to keep a secret at a fairly young age. And now as an adult, the #MeToo movement and Hollywood’s latest sexual abuse and assault scandals have motivated me to reflect on my feelings regarding the accountability and responsibility of secrecy. If we fail to take an honest look at how secrets are perpetrated and protected from the beginning, they will continue to live and haunt the lives of those holding them.
Is it right to expose an adult’s most vulnerable secret before that person chooses to share it? Who is actually responsible for letting people know about an adult’s harmful or hurtful secret? In connection to the recent celebrity cases, there appears to be more attention, shame and blame being placed on anyone with a personal or professional relationship to the person who allegedly committed the sexual crime. Shamefully, the perpetrator’s shoulders are freed from the burden of proof and others are left defending themselves.
So how do we change the culture of secrecy that surrounds sexual crimes? What will we change to help women to feel empowered and protected after exposing sexual crimes? What laws will we create or change for sexual crimes. Will we expose the sexual crimes of religious leaders? Or how about we first start at home. We can choose to believe the stories of daughters who bravely admit to being sexually abused or assaulted by the men their mothers love. We can break the cycle of considering men’s sexually advances as normal and every girl’s rites of passage. We can stop denying and sheltering the sexual perversions of male relatives and get them the help they need early. We can teach our boys to love, cherish and respect a girl’s right to govern her body. We can stop teaching women and girls they must do whatever it takes to find, please or keep men happy and present. We can encourage a safe home environment of openness, courage, honesty, trust and truth-telling. We can ban family secrets!