In honor of the #MeToo movement, nearly twenty women gathered at the Soldotna Library for a panel discussion on sexual harassment and abuse Tuesday night. Many Voices, a local social justice group organized the get-together.
The panel, which included two doctors, pastors and an advocate, discussed destigmatizing experiences of abuse. Clinical Physiologist Dr. Pamela Hays said she sees survivors’ shame run deep:
“I don't care if you did this or wore this or said this or whatever, this was not your fault,” she said. “Yet that message [that it was the survivor’s fault] just comes from the abuser and it's so powerful and for a lot of people it goes on for years and years and years.”
Hays said the #MeToo movement is chipping away at survivors’ shame by reminding them they’re not alone. Pastor Meredith Harber from the Christian Lutheran Church echoed Hays on how deep rooted the problem is and gave advice on how to deal with harmful messages from religion.
“Perhaps the most violent thing that I think Christians, especially Christian leaders, can say is that they use that big awful f word,” she said. “Do you know what I'm talking about? Forgiveness. I don't owe you my forgiveness. You don't just get that. I don't owe it to you and you don't owe it to me.”
Fellow panel member Dr. Kristin Mitchell added that it takes everyone, of all genders, to make change. She said everyone needs to ask the question, “When can I stick my neck out a little bit and protect somebody who doesn't have the power that I have to be able to stick up for themselves?”
After the panel discussion, women broke into small groups to talk more, giving them the opportunity to share their stories. The group ended the event by singing Libby Roderick’s song “How Could Anyone” which include the lyrics, “how could anyone ever tell you were anything less than beautiful?”
Many Voices' next event will be a unity and justice walk and celebration on Jan. 20.