‘Your Harassment Isn’t Your Fault’: Psychologist on #MeToo & Shame

‘Your Harassment Isn’t Your Fault’: Psychologist on #MeToo & Shame

Mind It

Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya

As accounts and accusations of sexual harassment emerge on social media, #MeToo spreads its roots in India as well. However, as details emerge in the virtual space, they are bound to take an emotional toll on survivors as well as people who may not have a harassment to share but are still as deeply touched by others’ accounts.

FIT reached out to Shelja Sen, a child and adolescent psychologist and family therapist. She shares some insights on how to calm the chaos within.

Coming to Terms With My Abuse

Shelja says that she meets a lot of young people who confess to news headlines and social media chatter triggering anxieties within. It’s alright and natural to feel overwhelmed by memories of abuse, especially if they had been hidden away. Coming across other people’s experience of harassment might trigger them.

It’s very important to find people you can confide in and who will listen to you.
It’s very important to find people you can confide in and who will listen to you.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

But How Do I Deal With This Anxiety?

The first step is to break the cycle of silence, insists Shelja. It’s very important to find people you can confide in and who will listen to you. It’s also extremely important to understand that what happened was not your fault, you are not to be blamed, she emphasises.

How Do I Deal With the Guilt and Shame?

Shelja says there will be intense emotions including anxiety, guilt and shame.

Especially in young girls, who have not spoken about it, there is a sense of “will people believe me?”. There is also a feeling of maybe if I do talk about it, especially if it’s a family member, then that person will go away.
Shelja Sen

The emotions are overwhelming, but they are different for different people, and this should be remembered at all times.

My Account of Harassment is Being Discredited, What Do I Do?

The key here is courage. It’s important to constantly remind yourself that the simple act of speaking up takes a lot of courage. However, there will also be people who will not believe you, but there will also be people who will believe you.

That depends on who you want to align with who you want to talk to. With this #MeToo campaign across the world more and more voices are coming up. You’re not alone.
Shelja Sen
It’s important to constantly remind yourself that the simple act of speaking up takes a lot of courage.
It’s important to constantly remind yourself that the simple act of speaking up takes a lot of courage.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

What if I Personally Know the Abuser/Accused?

It would be harder to react if you’re closer to a person. However, if it’s an acquaintance, perhaps a colleague or a distant relative, in that scenario, there could be confusion. This could be accompanied by a sense of generalisation - are all men like this? Can I trust anyone at all?

The key here is to remember that there is no prescribed way of dealing with it. Shelja reiterates the importance of taking your time to come to terms with it. There is no hurry to pick sides or align with anyone.

You take your time, see what works for you. Take one step at a time. Talk to a few people, get to have more conversations around it because there is a lot of silence around it. Talk to the person who has made an allegation, if you can. Understand the reality of the situation and then move forward. But remember there is no prescribed way. You have to find your own way.
Shelja Sen

(If you or someone you know needs help, please refer to this state-wise repository of trusted mental health professionals across India, curated by The Health Collective.)

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