S2 Ep 33 Silent No Longer: Championing voice for sexual assault and abuse victims as a process for healing and societal change.
6:14PM Apr 18, 2022
Shelli Ann Garland
Hello, and welcome to A Dash of SaLT. I'm Dr. Shelli Ann, and I'm so glad you're here. Whether you stumbled upon this podcast by accident, or you're here because the subject drew you in welcome. SaLT is an acronym for society and learning today. This podcast was created as an outlet for inviting fresh discussions on sociology and learning theories that impact your world. Each episode includes a wide range of themes that focus on society in everyday learning, whether formal or informal, so let's get stuck in shall we.
Welcome to A Dash of SaLT. Today I'm joined by Greta McLain. Greta is a former police officer, victims of crime coordinator and domestic violence outreach advocate and support group facilitator. She's also a two time survivor of sexual assault. After being raped in 2017. And having the me to movement literally save her life, Greta decided to give meaning to her trauma by sharing her story with others in hopes of helping them find the hope and healing that she has found. Sorry, I'm getting emotional just reading this.Okay, deep breaths. I'm honoured to have you on the podcast today and to speak with you about your own experience with sexual assault. what you've learned. I didn't think this is going to hit you this way Greta. I'm sorry.
Don't, hey. Don't ever, ever be sorry. Just take your time, get a breath.We can always start over if we have to.
I apologise. I
do not, I know.
We we, we have nothing ever to be sorry for. And sometimes it hits us when we don't realise it. Or don't think it will. So just take all the time you need. Okay.
I am really looking forward to this conversation, honestly. Okay. I'm honoured to have you on the podcast today, and to speak with you about your own experience with sexual assault, what you've learned from them, and how it's impacted the way that you advocate and interact with others, which is a very necessary discussion to get out in light of the me to movement, the rampant problem with sex trafficking all around the world, and the overall degradation of a paternalistic society where women's safety is at an all time low. So welcome, Greta, I'm so honoured to have you on my show.
Thank you, and I'm very honoured to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
In your bio, I gave a tiny glimpse of your background in history that's led you to where you are today. Can you tell us as much of your story that as you feel comfortable with and share it with our listeners?
Yes, ma'am. It was June of 2017, I had stopped at a truck stop to go to the restroom and get something to eat and hadn't gotten far from our car, maybe six or seven feet away when I felt somebody grabbed me from behind and shoved me against the hood of my car. And I had been a police officer for 12 years, and was fortunate enough to be able to defend myself when I had to. And it never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to do that if necessary. But I had left the department in 2000 so clearly been quite a while. And but I still didn't think that lack of practice or age would would stop me from being able to to defend myself but I tried best I could and just wasn't able to find him off. And he raped me. And despite the fact that I had also worked as a detective in the sex abuse unit with the department that I worked with, I remember now telling I can't tell you how many, you know, people that it's not your fault. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You aren't to blame. But being a former police officer, I felt again like I should have been able to fight him off I should have sent something was going to happen, you know, been more aware whatever. And fell into that same trap that so many victims fall into whether it's sexual violence or domestic violence felt like hours the one to blame. Even though intellectually I knew better at that particular point and totally gone out the window. And I quickly began to spiral into a very deep and dark depression, partly because I tried to pretend like it never happened, made excuses for, you know, the injuries and refuse to talk about it. And I even was terrified to report it. Because again, I didn't think that, you know, a police officer could be right, we're there to protect and serve. And even a former police officer, I felt like, again, I should have been able to do more to defend myself. So I figured if I didn't believe that it would happen, or that it could happen, why would anyone else. And that's why I kept it a secret, I didn't report it. And that's something that I still regret. It was a stranger, at a truck stop again, but there was still a possibility that maybe I could have, you know, gotten someone off the street sexual predator off the street. But I was, I was terrified that I will be blamed that I wouldn't be believed. And I just kept it all inside. And those embarrassment, the shame that I felt, because I had let myself be right is the way I felt that the depression got to the point where I was praying every night that God would let me die in my sleep. And crying every morning, when the sun rose, and had gotten to the point where it's like, I've got to do something else. This just obviously is not working, and thought about it. And that's when I decided exactly how it was going to end my life. And started writing goodbye letters, and got through every single letter without any problem. And then I got to that very last letter. And no matter how hard I tried, I could not find the words that I wanted to find. And finally just set the paper side thinking if I clear my head, then you know, words will come. And it'll be easy. I can get it over with I can get them delivered. And then I can do what I plan on doing. Again, set it aside. And next thing I remember, and I don't know how long it was. But next thing I remember is I'm scrolling through my Facebook feed. And I kept seeing this hashtag called me too. And I had no earthly idea at all what it meant. I hadn't been much television at and been on social media. I mean, listen to the radio in probably a week or more. So I'm like, What in the world does this mean? And I started looking it up. And once I figured it out, I was like, I can't believe that I have so many friends. I mean, not just quote Facebook friends, but people that I knew personally, that had gone through something at least vaguely similar to what I had, and found the strength to keep going. And that's when I decided, Okay, I'm gonna give that a shot.
How long after you know, you experienced this this violent sexual assault? Did you come across that me too? How long did you you know, have to try to deal with and cope on your own and in silence with what you were going through before you came across or that me too movement and up to that point? You know, what was your coping coping mechanisms other than these goodbye letters? You know, how did you get through the dark times that you experienced?
It was about for about four months, just trying to to ignore it. That was my coping mechanism. Just pretend that it didn't happen. And, you know, we've all heard at some point, ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. And that's absolutely true. All it did was let it fester more to the point that I was so depressed I became suicidal. But I it's some point well after I saw the hash tag, and it was like wow, you know, I maybe I can try to keep going and all of a sudden I remembered Matthew six 6:34 I believe it is, where it says don't worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. And that kind of became I use that for kind of like a mantra. And sometimes it was two or three times a day, sometimes it may have been 15,20, 30 times a day, but I just, every morning, I would wake up and I'm like, I'm going to just get through today. And I'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. And that's, that's how I managed to to keep going on was just saying, just this 24 hours get through today. And then we'll see what happens tomorrow. And that became my coping mechanism. And it worked. Thankfully,
yeah. Yeah. And, you know, you and I talked a little bit off recording sort of about my, my, my own personal experiences. And though, you know, I'm trying to be brave and learn to sort of open up about those experiences, you know, that have that happened multiple times, throughout my life, you know, that I think that's the thing that's important is that for listeners to know that, you know, sexual violence and sexual harassment and sexual assault can happen in many different forms. And I think what we do as women, or as sexual assault survivors, because then because obviously, it isn't always just women that are survivors of sexual assault as well. And sexual violence, it does happen in many different forms. And I think what we end up doing is we tell ourselves, Well, you know, if this was a known person, I knew that person, so I deserved that in some way, or I'm so ashamed because I had a relationship with somebody who, you know, was this terrible person, or, you know, I can't tell this because it will upset my family, if I tell them about something that happened to me when I was a young, you know, a young adolescent, or these types of things. And I think that's one of the things that we have to realise and embrace is that these experiences are never our fault. They're never something that we, you know, have asked for. First of all, we have to, we have to stop that narrative. And then second of all, you know, we have to learn to cope with how do we move forward with, with our experience or with our story, but I will say for me, you know, when, when I saw the hashtag MeToo for the first time, it was scary, but at the same time, it was really empowering. It was then when I say it was scary, it was scary for me to publicly on social media, Instagram, and then also on Twitter, as well as Facebook, for me to actually take that step. And to say, Me too, and to mean it. So that was a hugely scary, very terrifying moment for me. But at the same time, it was also really empowering, because I knew that I have Stand by 1000s and 1000s, of of people sexual assault survivors. And, you know, you you, you know, need to be acknowledged and praised for the fact that you have spoken publicly, and are continuing to speak publicly about your story. And, and you know, about writing these goodbye letters, you know, how did you go? And how did you go from writing these goodbye letters to becoming this advocate for other women,
the goodbye letters were to family members, and really close friends, just letting them know, I wanted them to know how much you know, I cared about them, how much I loved them, to explain what was going on, and why I was doing what I was planning on doing. And to basically tell them, It's not their fault, you know, was keeping this a secret, and they had no way of knowing. And I just wanted to make it as easy as possible on them and didn't want anybody you know, to blame themselves for for what I was going to do or what I was planning on doing. And after I saw the hashtag, and I started thinking about it and realising you know, how many people had been affected by this and we're still still here still, you know, getting through their life. I also realised that if Alyssa Milano hadn't posted that initial meet to then the little Over 12 million that were posted in the next 24 hours would have never happened. And I never would have seen that. And if I hadn't have seen it, then that would, I wouldn't be here I would be dead. And I thought, You know what? This, and this sounds weird sometimes to some people, but I felt like I was given a gift. That I was granted a second chance that God had answered my prayer, just obviously not in the way I had expected. And that I should use that gift to try to help others because it was somebody speaking out that saved my life, then maybe if I can turn my trauma and pain into something with purpose and meaning and use it for good, if I just help one person, you know, maybe not try to harm themselves, then I'm not gonna say that it was worth it, I still obviously wish that I'd never been right. But then again, it gives it purpose. And I'm okay with that. You know, I'm okay with that. So, that's, that's kind of how I got from, you know, about to in my life to being an advocate. Because I think, again, if it hadn't been for other people, then I wouldn't be here. So I need to use my psychic chance to try to help others so that they can, they can stay here and get the help they need and continue the healing process and get to a point where it's easier for them to, to get through the day. And they're not having to quote their mantra, you know, 20 or 30 times a day.
Yeah, I have to ask you on. I know that, you know, like I said, as I've started to open up a bit about my own experiences, I, you know, the responses that I've gotten from from some people have been, oh, you know, you're so brave, or you're so courageous. And, you know, those words for me? I struggle with them. And I don't I want to know, if you struggle with that, because I don't, I don't feel brave, and I don't feel courageous. You know, I just feel like I'm, I'm taking steps. And it's really hard to say, you know, to say, well, you know, I acknowledge that you know that you believe that I might be brave or I might be courageous because I don't feel that. And I want to know if you struggled with, you know, those kinds of things when you started opening up to others?
I did. And still do. I don't think that it's brave. I think that it's just what I've been called to do. And I'm just following that calling. Maybe I'm faithful, but I don't know about brave or courageous. And, you know, if people think that then obviously, thank you. But I just feel like I'm doing what I what I was called to do. And and I'll tell others, you know, the same thing that you know, it does, it does take a lot of courage to publicly say what has happened, because it is such a taboo thing to talk about still to this day in society. And in particular, communities of colour. It's oftentimes from from what I'm trying to educate myself even more and more and to be aware, and from what I'm learning what I'm being told, by friends and everything, that it's just something that's it's kind of generational, and it's not talked about, and that needs to change because we shouldn't feel like it's taboo. We shouldn't feel ashamed, we shouldn't feel like it's something that needs to be kept in the shadows. It's a part of life, it's a part of reality, and we can't go about trying to address the epidemic of sexual violence. If we don't talk about it. You know, we have to be able to have a very difficult and very emotional conversation sometime, but that's the only way we're going to fix the problem.
What are some of some misconceptions in community and society about sexual assault that you can share with us
I call them, the you know, the oldies, but goodies because so many of them have been around for decades, and we still haven't been able to eradicate them. I'm working on it. You know, it takes all of us. One of the things that are still hear to this day is that, you know, blaming the victim well if she dressed like this, and she was asking for it, or she went to the bar by ourselves, she was asking for it, what did she think was gonna happen? Within you look at other crimes, and that doesn't happen, you know, people don't get blamed for it. You know, if if you choose not to have a burglar alarm system on your house, somebody doesn't say, Well, you are too cheap to get a burglar alarm. So you deserve to be, you know, be burglarized. That's crazy. You know, nobody deserves to be a victim of crime. It's the perpetrators fault. Never the victims, regardless of the crime, and kind of awakening that I had was when I was still with the police department. And we staffing a case with my lieutenant when I was lead detective in the sex abuse unit. And I'm sitting there going over the stuff and he stopped me in mid sentence and said, Okay, hang up, hang up. It's like, yeah, she she technically she did say now, she did. But and as soon as I heard the bottom, like, this isn't gonna, this isn't gonna go well. And he said, but, you know, she went into the bedroom with him. And she let him take her blouse off. So technically, yeah, she was she was saying no, but she was really saying yes, and you need to close the case. And thankfully, I had enough presence of mind not to speak my mind. I just kind of stared at him for a while because I was couldn't believe that the head of you know, the sex crimes unit was saying this. And I finally just got up and walked out. And it really affected me. And I thought about it for probably seven or eight months, because I'm like, if this is the way the department looks at sexual assault, then and this was before my rape. I'm like, I don't know, if I want to be part of law enforcement. And I've loved the job. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the time that I spent there. But I'm like, I just don't know. And after thinking about it a while, that's when I decided to leave the department and work with victims of crime. And I don't know exactly how we eradicate that type of of misconception, because you would think after since beginning of time, it's kind of maybe been that way. But that's something that again, we need to talk about, and explain to people that it's never the victims fault, no matter what kind of crime it is. And another thing is, I hear a lot of people say that sexual assault is about someone who can't control their sexual urges. And that is absolutely not true. It's is sexual violence, like domestic violence is all about power and control. And instead of maybe hitting someone, or yelling at someone, they use sex as their weapon of control. And that's so many people don't understand that. And they're like, Well, maybe if they get help, you know, therapy to control their sex addiction. It's not an addiction to sex addiction to power and control. And, you know, again, that's something that's that's been out there, and people just, maybe they choose, I don't know not to hear it. But that's something that I try to remind people and also try to remind the people that it isn't about somebody making something up, because they're afraid their husband's gonna find out they were cheating or their parents are gonna get mad, or somebody didn't call him back after the first date or something. False claims of sexual assault are incredibly rare. 92 to 98% are credible reports. And, you know, I think of it this way, if you were to tell me, I had a 92 or 98% chance to win Powerball, you know, win the 100 million dollars, you better believe I'm going to the nearest market and getting a Powerball ticket. You know, and people need to remember that about sexual violence to it's an incredibly high odds that the person is telling the truth. And that's that's one of the things that I preach. Probably daily to people is just remember to believe victims because Yeah, they're, they're telling the truth.
And I think that's something important to again bring out and to and to talk about too is the, you know, from the minute, and it is with sexual assault more than sexual violence more than anything else. But from the minute it is, if somebody is brave enough or courageous enough to report it, or to, you know, go through that process, or, or even if they're, you know, it was something that, you know, was more public, and there were witnesses, and they're sort of pushed along that, that there that flow, where that river of, well, you have to go through this process, there is still that element of victim blaming, that starts from the very, very beginning with that, and, and the victim then suddenly feels like, wait a second, I don't want any part of this, I don't want my my life made public, I don't want, you know, other areas of my life made public, I don't want to do this, and they withdraw their, their, their reports, they, you know, don't want to go through any court proceedings or a court process. And in what that has done is it continues to perpetuate that mentality, that societal mentality that it that rape is okay, or there is more layers to it, or, again, that finger pointing in that victim blaming that happens, you know, from from the moment, like you said, you know, in a closed doors in an investigation, where officers male, I'm assuming, I don't know what the percentages is, but it's usually the male and that's also a power element to is where, you know, like what you were saying, you know, you had your, your, you know, the person that was overseeing this, this crime that you were investigating say to you, well, you know, there's layers to it, then then there's that power element where you think to yourself as an investigator, well, I'm not actually going to step on that person's toes, either. Because this could be the risk of my job. So now that victim has less and less people on their side that's willing to fight for them, or to encourage them that they can go through it. So it's such an institution, this whole thing with sexual violence and sexual assault and victim blaming is such an institution that, you know, we have to cry out loud, you know, let's get rid of this, how do we get rid of this? How do we make these people, men in particular, you know, start to come around and say, I'm gonna stand behind this victim, no matter what her lifestyle was, no matter, you know, like you said, it's 98% of the time, these are true allegations that are made, you know, in sexual assault, and if somebody is brave enough, or strong enough, or whatever, to come forward, and not sit back in the shadows in the silence and, and be afraid to, you know, take it that process, you know, it's, it's, it's, it has to be done. And that's the narrative that we have to fight for,
we definitely need to fight for it. And I just want to let people know that they aren't aware that only about 33% of sexual assaults are reported. And a lot of it is because one, they blame themselves to their, they're afraid that people are going to blame them or not believe them. And, you know, sadly, I had an instance where, you know, my tenant, you know, was basically blaming the victim. And a lot of it too, can be the fact that it's, if it's somebody that's known to them, you don't want to, you know, well, I'm going to tear the family apart, if it's a relative for, you know, something like that, or am I going to lose my job? You know, if it's a co worker or supervisor. And, you know, you have to remember that, you know, there's a lot of reasons why people don't report it. Just because they don't report it doesn't mean it didn't happen. And communities of colour, especially African Americans, they, I mean, we've seen more and more of it recently, they have legitimate fears of law enforcement. Now, I want to emphasise that not all law enforcement are bad at all. It's a small minority, but like with anything in the news, you know, the bad stuff gets the publicity and the good stuff usually doesn't. But, you know, you see this enough and, you know, I can't put myself in their shoes, but I'd probably be scared of going to law enforcement to just knowing some of the history. And that's something that has to change to, you know, we have to talk and we have to have partnerships, with law enforcement and organisations like solid no longer and other victim advocacy programmes so that we can try to bridge that gap in the race, that fear and have us all look at each other as just fellow human beings. And just learn to respect each other. And, you know, again, that's something that we've been trying to do, probably since the beginning of time, but we can't stop trying,
in your experience, and in your opinion, what is the most important thing that we can do to help someone who has maybe come to us, or that we know or, you know, it's been acknowledged that this person has been sexually assaulted? You know, what is the most important thing that we that the listeners can do to help someone who's been sexually assaulted?
First thing is believed them. Just just believe them. And second is just listen to them. Let them talk through their emotions, let them you know, make their own decisions. What we don't always realise is the victim has had total control over their body violently taken away from and that, if you've never been through it, I'm glad, but I can't really express how traumatic that is. But the quicker you can begin to regain some sense of control, no matter how small it is, that's the beginning of the healing process. And simple things that we think we're being helpful, like, you know, if if you were to come to me and say, Hey, this happened, and I said, Oh, I'm sorry, here, let me drive you to the hospital. So you can get checked out. I think I'm being helpful. But maybe you don't want to go to the hospital, and it may feel like, okay, she's, I have to do this, because she's telling me to do it. You know, just believe them and listen to them, and let them in their time, make the decisions that they feel are right for them. As soon as we try to push them in a different direction, we just re victimising them. So that's, that, to me, those two things are the most important things we can do.
And I think that it is important for people to realise and understand that. And maybe this, you would know, this may be more than than I. But, you know, criminal sexual conduct and charges of criminal sexual conduct, often, in many states, and in many areas in many countries actually don't have a statute of limitations. And I don't know, when I don't know the history, I don't know when and if or how, you know, when that came about that criminal sexual conduct doesn't have that statute of limitations because somebody somewhere advocated and knew that people who have been sexually assaulted, need a significant amount of time to be able to have that, you know, to be able to say, okay, now's the time for me to come forward. And obviously, we've seen this in some very high profile cases, which was where the Alyssa Milano came out with the, you know, the the MeToo hash tag with it was originally a 2006 Hashtag from a lady by the name of Tyrana Burke, but because it because of the high profile sexual assault cases that were being brought to light where people were standing up and saying, you know, there's strength in numbers. You know, I'm gonna stand alongside this person and say, you know, what, this happened to me, too, with this person, the same person. But my guess my point is, is that, you know, is do you have an awareness of or an understanding of why CSC is, you know, doesn't have bear that statute, statute of limitations.
I wish I understood why. And thankfully, there are states that are doing away with the statutes, definitely, Tennessee and fortunately, where I live, has not it's two years. And, you know, depending on the situation, if it's somebody, if it's a family member, if it's somebody, you know, living in the household, if it's a teacher, you know, somebody in authority, a lot of times you're going to be too scared of what else is going to happen to come forward in and just with any, like any type of trauma. You have to go through a grieving process. Just like if you've lost a loved one, and, you know, we hear people say, Oh, they just lost their husband or their wife, you know, they, they need to take time to process it and deal with it and then move on, which for some people that may be six months, for some people, it may be five or 610 years, you know, we're all different. And it's the same with with with sexual assault, you know, some people may be able to, to process it and get the help they need and deal with it and better and quicker, and some people can't. And that's why I believe that it's incumbent on state legislators and, and Congress to, you know, really revisit this and make changes so that victims don't lose the opportunity to potentially put a predator in prison, or be forced to maybe jeopardise their mental and emotional health by trying to do something that they're not ready to do like testify in court. And it shouldn't be an either or it should be. Yes, what I call Yes, and, yes, this and we need to do this as well.
Yeah, it's, we really, definitely need to flip flip the narrative and and, you know, support in that way. And, you know, remind all of us who have been through these experiences that, yes, somebody is there to support you, and what can we do? And how do we move forward? Right, in that, you talked about, and again, in your, you know, experiences publicly and, you know, you've started this silent no longer, Tirana, Burke started the me to movement. And, you know, there are many others that are coming to surface to tell their stories of abuse, you know, why do you believe that it's important for people, whenever they're ready to share their stories in in ways that are comfortable in in some form of a public way? Why do you think that's important?
One, once we say it out loud, it kind of, from not just me, but for pretty much everyone I've spoken with, that the victim or survivor, is, it allows us to let go of the shame, or the blank, you know, it's like, this happened to me, and it wasn't my fault. And that is a huge step in really beginning to move on from the assault. It's pretty much impossible to work through, you know, something, if we're constantly thinking that it's our fault. So once we can let it go and say, you know, this has happened, and we can, we can do better. And it's not only good, I think for for us, it's good for people that we don't know, who has experienced this. Because, again, it was somebody saying it that saved my life. So you never know who you're going to help. And I think being able to do it in various ways is helpful. You know, the traditional thing when you talk about fourth, think about storytelling, it's, you know, you stand behind a podium or on a stage and, or in a circle and share your story, but not everybody's good at that. You know, there's a lot of people who are terrified of public speaking. So trying to tell somebody that they have to do it in this one way just isn't realistic. And that's why it's out and the longer we've started creative expression programmes, like poetry, drama, dance, painting, sculpture, mixed media, so that people can express their their stories in ways that they're more comfortable. And to me, it can be just as powerful as you know, giving a TED talk or you know, something like that, sometimes more so. You know, visuals can really impact people and really be moving. And then obviously something words but, you know, there's a variety of ways that helps the person tell their story, and can also make a huge impact on our community and bring about more awareness.
I absolutely love that. I love that. That's one of the things that your organisation does. Because like you said, you know, whatever your you know, whatever your brave is, you know, whatever your you know for you to be able to stand up and say, you know, the ME TOO without words, you know, whether it's, you know, a song or music or you know, art or, you know, writing it in a journal or, you know, sharing it on a blog, or, you know, any of those types of things, you know, or even doing it in a TED talk, if you get to that point where, you know, you have had that experience, you know, it is important because just one person saving just one fellow person who's been through that same experience, is all that's needed, you know, on and, you know, there's strength in numbers there.
One example is back in, in February, we did a event called Shadows ignited, and it was monologues, poetry, dance, music, and are several of our clients wrote the poems and monologues and short, dramatic pieces. And then I found people who were willing to come in and perform those because the clients didn't want to do it themselves. And during that programme, we had three of the performers who had never, ever told anyone that they were victims of sexual assault, disclosed, one of them, two of them privately, but one of them during the live performance right before she got up to sing. She said she disclosed in that tells you the power of of helping others and the power of storytelling in whatever form it is. And that's, that's the moment that I'm like, Yeah, we're, we're on the right track, and we're doing things that are going to help people because we witnessed it, you know, in that moment.
Yeah... You know, so, so powerful there, that's the thing is we take the power back, like you had said, you know, crimes of sexual violence and sexual crimes are a power thing more often than any anything else. And, you know, what we do, when we, you know, have this freedom to express ourselves, and to be supported, is we take that power back to ourselves. And I think that that's one of the most amazing things that your organisation does is, you're giving the power back to victims to say, This is mine, this is my story to to share. It's my story to embrace. And, you know, this is my, this is how I stand alongside others. But unfortunately, again, we're going to talk a little bit more about the systemic and the institutional issues, in society and in communities, you know, it does still feel like a very uphill battle. And for every woman who publicly shares a story of sexual abuse or harassment, for every one woman, who does this, or one person who does this, I don't want to keep saying that, again. It's a women's issue. You know, even though it predominantly is we do know that there, you know, are others who have had these, you know, experiences of sexual violence and sexual assault. But for every one person who stands up, you know, and says, you know, this is my story. And this is what happened to me, there are hordes of men who publicly belittle harass and gaslight, this person. Why do you think this is? And what do you feel needs to change this, you know, to stop things like toxic masculinity, and the boys, you know, the boys know, best type of narrative.
I think the reason for it is, and this is gonna sound bad, it's gonna sound like, um, man bashing. And that's not it. But in my experience, the ones that I've seen doing that the most are so fearful of losing power and control, that we have to keep the woman in her place. You know, we're up here, and they're down here, and we know best. And I think it's insecurity, honestly, is a big part of why that that occurs, as far as changing it. And it sounds may be too simplistic, but I think just teaching basic respect to our children. And I don't know that we do that enough. Sometimes. I'm not a parent, I've never had a child. But in talking with parents, they're like, you know, I've never really thought about having this particular conversation. And it's something as simple as saying, you know, telling and I'm just gonna throw up named Johnny. Yes. He and Sally may look a little different. But they're all human beings. And they're both capable of accomplishing, you know, whatever they want to accomplish in living their dreams. And it doesn't matter, you know, what they look like? That we're all we're all the same pretty much. And if we can get children starting, you know, three, four or five years old, and just saying something similar to that, and continue it, it'll take probably a couple of generations. But I think eventually, we can get to the point where we have enough that they've heard that and believe it and embrace it, that we won't have, you know, this problem. Now, when I say this problem, I'm realistic, I know that we'll never have a utopia society, we're never going to end sexual violence, even though that's what we often say that we're trying to do. But if we can reduce it, then that's definitely something to be proud of. And, you know, right now, an average of over 430,000 women are raped every year in this country. And that's something we don't hear about, we hear about epidemics of opioid addiction and overdose in the year of gun violence, but, you know, for over 430,000, every single year in this country, and we can reduce that, if we just teach each other basic respect from a very young age, and we're just not doing it.
Yeah, yeah, I think that's, you know, incredibly important and an incredibly important message, you know, to heed and to support again, you know, for those of us for listeners, and, and those of us, you know, to definitely to heed that and support that. And to even call people out, you know, when they, when it sounds like they're supporting, you know, the victim blaming or, you know, because, you know, a victim doesn't shouldn't be constantly victimised over and over and over again, because, you know, they're being blamed. And, you know, people need to stop sort of taking the sides of, well, you know, well, that might be that person might be bad, but they're not that bad, you know, but yes, note that this, they did this to the victim, you shouldn't be making them to sound like they're, you know, well, that might have been a slip up or whatever, you know, mistake, no, they have to take responsibility for that action for those of us, you know, who have gone through these experiences and know who our, you know, our, our predator was, you know, but but to be supportive, and to be able to stand up and say, No, you're not going to, you know, in my circle here, you're not allowed to continue to blame this victim for this, you know, sexual assault for this crime that has happened against them.
And we can call them out without being really confrontational, you know, you hear somebody saying that. And even if it's not necessarily true, you know, we could say something like, you know, I thought the same thing at one point, but then I started thinking, what if it was my wife, or my daughter or mother or something, and, you know, it's not okay. And it wouldn't be their fault. And do it that way. Because, and I'll have to admit, there were times where initially that I would be much more abrupt and not so gentle. And you're just not going to, you're not going to sway people that way, you're not going to get their attention, they're going to shut down. So you know, again, just something, even if you've never thought this may be like you have and then try to get them to come around. And if they start thinking, wow, what if, what if, what if my sister came and told me this happened? In start making it personal, they're more likely to change their opinion, and more likely to hopefully get other people to change their opinion.
Uhm, so, you know, we've talked a lot about you know, sexual violence and sexual assault and domestic violence. We touched on that a little bit. But sex exploitation, also, trafficking, not just sex trafficking, but human trafficking, and grooming and things like that are said to be really one of the biggest industries. And in you know, when you think of the word industry, you think about Money Making schemes you think about capitalism. You know, these are one, this is one of the biggest industries in the world. And, and it's continuing decline in the US, and police departments and precincts have been, and continue to hire specialised training officers to advocate for victims of sex crimes and and domestic violence and sexual violence. Do you think that that that's sufficient enough? Or is there more that can be done?
It's a good start. But I don't think that it's anywhere close to being sufficient enough. And it's important for us to remember as well, that it's not something that can be solved just on a state level or national level, even United Nations gender equity and peace and social justice ambassador. And so this is something that I follow quite often. And the areas that typically have the highest number of of trafficking, whether it's sex trafficking, or forced labour trafficking in the world is around Asia, Eastern Europe, in parts of Africa. And a lot of those places also have a lot of poverty and, and have armed conflict. And that plays into it. People think about Ukraine right now, we have women and children fleeing for their lives, worried because their husbands or fathers or older sons, you know, are fighting and desperate to get to the border, and are taking riots from anybody. Because they're exhausted, and understandably, but the danger in that, and it terrifies me how many may have become victimised again, and are being trafficked because of that. And until we address as a world as humanity, the fact that, you know, there is severe severe poverty, and there are things that we can do to help that, that there is armed conflict, and we need to try to address some of the systemic causes of that, again, we're not going to have utopia. But the more we can do, the greater we can reduce the likelihood of people being trafficked. A lot of it comes from the fact that, you know, there is such poverty, and people are like, this is a way to make money, this is a way to feed myself and my family and keep a roof over our head and aren't thinking about the evil of it, they're just thinking about survival. And until as again, as humanity, we start coming together and putting, you know, our little petty differences aside, and working on this, then we're going to continue to have it. And I'm glad that departments are focusing on it, and they should, but this is much more than just a city department or a state or national thing, this is this is a global thing that we need to come together to, to address,
or having just one representative, you know, in each, in each precinct or department, that's not enough, either, you know, you have to have a team. And that team has to, you know, they, it has to not be something that they felt like they were forced into doing, you know, as part of, you know, you know, increasing their possibility for promotion or things like that, it has to be, you know, you have to get on board people who, that's what they want to do. That's their passion. That's their calling, you know, you know, you have you now have a passion and a calling, it wasn't what you intended, and it wasn't what you would have ever originally wanted. But you have a passion and a calling. And there are people that that come alongside you and come on board with, with your organisation now who also have that same passion and calling who may not have had those types of things happen to them. And I think that's what more precincts and departments need to start doing is finding those people who have a passion and a calling to help people of sexual violence. You know, and, you know, be involved with this, this, this whole phenomenon of trafficking and in this industry, and fighting it. Tell us about your organisation, silent no longer what are some of the things that you're doing now? And what do you hope to have, you know, that might be coming down the pipe in the future.
Right now we're working towards trying to provide programmes and services that aren't readily available. We have some wonderful sexual assault centres in the state of Tennessee who do phenomenal work. So there's no need for us to try to replicate what they're doing because they're doing it well. So we're looking at things like the creative expression, to give victims and survivors a way to share their story. Another thing that we're looking at, and we've talked about this a few times, as far as men being victimised as well, is creating peer support groups. And we're probably in the next couple months going to be training, peer support group facilitators. And we want to have support groups that are men only. Because, you know, I've spoken with a couple of male victims, and their thing is, you know, I can go to, you know, a support group, but it's all women, and I don't feel comfortable talking about, you know, what happened to me in front of them, and they don't feel comfortable having a man in there while they're talking about what happened. And so, male victims, a lot of times are kind of left out in the cold as far as services. So we want to address that and have peer support groups for men. Also have them specifically for LGBTQ plus communities, communities of colour, if if you know they're wanting that, and in rural communities, because in Tennessee, believe you, you in near Memphis region. Memphis, the only dedicated sexual assault support group in West Tennessee is in Memphis, if you live up toward Martin or Union City or an area like that, you're talking about almost three hour round trip just to get to the support group, not to mention the hour and a half of the support group, and nobody has time for that. So if we can get support groups, peer support groups in these rural areas that can make, you know, a big positive impact. And the other thing, major thing that we're looking at is training as again, especially in rural communities, training people in strategic planning, and community organising so that they can have the tools and the skills needed to help organise their communities around topics like sexual violence and domestic violence, if they or poverty or health care, whatever, but so that they can start trying to make positive change in their communities. And, you know, that's how we grassroots is how we're going to solve any problem. And that's kind of that's been our focus is being more grassroots. Because it's, you have to get out, you have to meet the people, you have to make a connection. And you have to take the time to hear to be really actively listened to them and know what they need. And not just say, Well, I think they need this and give it to them. That may not be what they need. So that's our main things is listening and trying to provide what we've been told that is most needed. And we're happy to do it and excited to keep expanding.
Great. And would you share with us the contact information how do they find you?
They can find us at SilentNoLongerTN T as in Tom N as in nancy dot org or contact at silent no longer tn.com I'm sorry.org Our phone is not staffed 24 All the time right now. We are still growing. And we it's easier for us to actually see emails come through and us to respond quicker than it is for phone call right now. But we're working to solve that but I encourage people if you have any questions please contact us if you aren't in the state of Tennessee that's okay. We may not provide be able to provide you direct services but what we can do is do research for you and get you in contact with people that can help you and we're more than willing to do that.
That's fantastic and it would be great to to see it become more nationwide even as well you know so that it's not always just silent no longer tn it's silent no longer got work in every state in the country and you know and beyond from there as Well, so, um, that that was that is my hope for you and for your organisation. And, you know, any way that that that I can be supportive and listeners can be supportive in any way is, you know, just to reach out to you first and see what is your biggest need? And how can we help?
Thank you. Yes, we can always use volunteers. Always
fantastic. And any final words of wisdom or advice for listeners before we say goodbye,
I would say for for victims and survivors, just remember that it's not your fault. It was never your fault. The only person to blame is the perpetrator. And to remember that your story does matter. And it is healing to tell it when you're ready. And to tell it in any way that is comfortable. And to remember the the empowerment of not only you but of others, and know that you aren't alone. You aren't alone in this, that there are people out there who want to help and are willing to help. And there's no shame in asking for help because we all need it at some point. And for those who are trying to help you know somebody that they care about who's been victimised, just remember to believe them and listen to that's the most important things we can do. And lastly, never underestimate the power of storytelling, because it can be can have a very real impact on people.
Yeah, absolutely. Greta, thank you so much for sharing your story for sharing, you know, your wisdom and your experiences. And I am hoping for such great things with silent no longer tn. I appreciate you being on with me today. And I'm telling your story. Thank you, Greta,
thank you for giving me the opportunity and hopefully, because of your generosity, maybe we've helped somebody and that's my prayer.
I hope that you've enjoyed this discussion on A Dash of SaLT, a space where you'll always find fresh and current discussions on society and learning today. Seasoned with just the right touch of experts in education and a dash of sociological imagination. Please be sure to like and share this episode. And don't forget to subscribe to A Dash of SaLT on PodBean so that you don't miss the next episode. Thanks so much and we'll chat again soon.