News In Brief 2/23/18
As psychologists we have provided the four safe walls in which our patients can disclose their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. We are now witnessing public statements of such experiences as women and men young and old use social media platforms and the #metoo movement to voice their vulnerable secrets-the unwanted touch from an employer, the coercion by a college friend, the incest, the rape. The social proof theory in social psychology prophecies that as women’s disclosures are accepted and validated more will follow (https://www.npr.org/2018/02/07/583910310/why-metoo-happened-in-2017) and we have seen a cascade of disclosures and of positive responses to those disclosures as men in powerful positions are being held accountable for their actions. We are aware of the research documenting the power of our responses to these disclosures (Article reviewing literature:http://www.apa.org/pi/about/newsletter/2014/06/sexual-assault.aspx).
We are also aware of the triggers that being exposed to some of these issues can cause in our patient population and the general public. This movement brings both important public dialogues and the continued need for individuals to have a safe and private space to process all of the emotions elicited by#metoo. The relief of the patient who had felt alone, the sense of invalidation of the patient who was raped and now feels his situation is being equated with inappropriate jokes in the workplace, the patient who wants to understand if their behavior is offensive or not, and last but not least our own recognition of the events we have endured in our lives, our careers, our professional training.
We need to have conversations that recognize that this social movement can have unique individual impacts on our patient population and on us as individuals. Approach the issue from a trauma informed perspective that does not assume anything. Consult each other about difficult situations and vicarious trauma, and stay informed about relevant resources. #metoo is an opportunity for personal and cultural evolution, in which we have an integral role.
Maura D. Sullivan, Psy.D Chair and members of the NHPA Committee for Women, Minorities, and Diverse Populations