Op-ed piece by Lieff Cabraser associate Laura Heiman & summer associate Rachel Green

The #MeToo and Times Up movements have changed the national and global conversation about sexual harassment and assault, heralding the rise of an important and long-needed cultural shift. The #MeToo movement‘s encouragement of survivors to come forward to share their stories in solidarity has sparked a marked increase in the public reporting of sexual misconduct.

This change is significant: a new survey finds that 81% of women and 43% of men report experiencing sexual harassment. Speaking up about sexual misconduct remains difficult and deeply personal, but now at least the world is listening to survivors’ stories. In fact, the New York Times recently published the accounts of twenty men and women who publicly shared their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. As one survivor told the Times, “[n]ow people will finally listen to these stories instead of dismissing them. Now we talk because now the culture is listening to us.”

It Is Still Hard to Come Forward

Even in the midst of #MeToo, it can be incredibly hard to come forward. Research suggests that it is common for survivors of sexual assault to experience feelings of shame or blame themselves for their perpetrator’s misconduct. It is totally normal to feel this way; many survivors do. But it is important to emphasize that what happened to the survivor is not their fault.

Experts say that it can take some survivors years to process what happened to them, especially if the perpetrator was someone they trusted. Others wait to come forward out of fear of reprisal, or fear that they will not be believed. A recent UK study found that on average, it takes male victims of sexual abuse 26 years to speak up. And in recent months and years, many male and female survivors have spoken publicly for the first time about sexual misconduct that happened decades ago. By the time they are ready to report, some survivors fear that it is too late to come forward. But if you’re ready to share your story, it is definitely not too late.

If you are ready to share your story, it is definitely not too late.

The Benefits of Coming Forward

Sexual abuse thrives in secrecy, silence, and shame. Speaking out about abuse brings it into the light. Survivors who courageously come forward to report say it can be a powerful part of the healing process, and can also inspire others to come forward, helping people who feel isolated know they’re not alone, that they can get help and support, and can find a path to recovery.

The recent New York Times special highlighted the stories of twenty men and women sharing what happened after they spoke out about their experiences with sexual abuse and harassment. Some spoke of the solidarity they experienced with fellow victims of the same abuser, of the relief they felt after sharing a story so long kept a secret, and of the support and validation they received from total strangers appreciating their bravery and strength.

How to Contact Sexual Abuse Lawyer at Lieff Cabraser

Annika K. Martin at Women En MassMore than 225 students and alumnae are now suing USC for failing to protect them from Dr. George Tyndall. Speaking up is no one’s choice but yours. Lieff Cabraser partner Annika K. Martin, herself an alumnus of USC’s law school, is leading the litigation for our firm on behalf of women who suffered violence, abuse, and harassment by George Tyndall and USC. You can contact Annika by telephone at 415-956-1000 or you can use the confidential form on our website.

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