Unspoken truth

The truth may set you free, but telling the truth may not.

In the new age of “Me Too,” telling the truth about sexual harassment or violence is not only considered freeing for the individual involved, but a necessary part of both healing and justice.

We also know that it has to be done immediately, or the message becomes something else — a suspicious personal “Gotcha,” where salacious details are stored for the day when they will be most effective in damaging the unsuspecting perpetrator.

Some women — and men, who can be victims, too — are immediately vocal about what happened to them, but not everyone. For those who choose to wait, remaining silent may be one of the few choices they were able to make about their experience. It may be the only part of their experience that they have ever been able to control.

The rationale for keeping silent may seem impossible to understand. We want to pound our fists in frustration and ask the victims, “Why would you wait?” We think we know exactly what we would do. We would speak up, oh, we would certainly speak up. But then why do so many keep silent?

They have reasons, but we will not hear them until we stop thinking about what the victim should have done and focus on what was done to them.

Sometimes, telling the truth will not make you free, but hearing it will.

So … why?

Why not speak up?

Because … who would believe me?

Because I was stupid, reckless, careless.

Because I should have known better.

Because he was so well-known and respected and couldn’t possibly do such a thing.

Because people will say I asked for it.

Because I couldn’t figure out the little cues that I must have been sending.

Because he is already telling anyone who will listen that I was the one who came on to him, and they already believe him.

Because it must be someone’s fault, and since it can’t be his, it must be mine.

Because my boyfriend told you he would kill anyone who hurt me, and he would, and then he would be caught, and I would be alone when I needed him most.

Because I was stupid, reckless, careless.

Because I should have known better.

Because 99.9 percent of the men I see every day are going to drive me exactly where they said they were going to without stopping along the way.

Because I knew, from the moment the little hairs stood up on the back of my neck, that I shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Because this could not have been real.

Because I couldn’t move and I should have been able to move.

Because I don’t want to have to recall the exact date and time and place or what I was wearing or what he smelled like.

Because I want to be strong-willed and powerful instead of a victim.

Because if I don’t talk about it, I can pretend it wasn’t real.

Because as soon as I talk about it everyone will know that I was stupid, reckless, careless.

And I don’t want everyone to tell me that I should have known better.

Carol Ryczek is editor-in-chief of The Shawano Leader, Oconto County Times Herald and Wittenberg Enterprise/Birnamwood News.