#WhyIDidn’tReport 'Till I Was 40 * CoveyClub

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#WhyIDidn’tReport ‘Till I Was 40

Why speaking out about sexual trauma may be easier later in life

By Catherine LeFebvre

It took 36 years and a potential lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court for Christine Blasey Ford to come forward and speak publicly about her alleged attempted rape by Brett Kavanaugh.

Her reasoning was understandable, says  Dr. Cecilia Dintino, a clinical psychologist and co-creator of Twisting the Plot, a therapy workshop for women over 50. There is a culture of shame around sexual assault, and shame’s function is to make sure you keep your mouth shut.

But the problem is a lot of times we walk around having shame about things,” Dintino said, “and we really didn’t do anything wrong.”

It seems as a society we’re starting to break down the shame around sexual assault. Women and men, especially those over 40, are more willing to share their stories publicly. And when the president of the United States takes to Twitter to shame a woman all over again, an explosion erupts.

So started #WhyIDidntReport, a hashtag used more than 800,000 times in the last week, in a viral storm of survivor stories. As Dintino points out, the antidote to shame is voice, and the minute you say something out loud, you put a crack in the shame construct.

“I feel that more and more, women want to take charge of who they are going to be in their 40s and 50s,” she said. “They say, you know what? I’m not gonna just disappear now that I’m a certain age. And what comes naturally with that is owning their story.”  

Telling your story — and telling it many different ways while giving yourself permission to experience the feelings that come with it — is the first step in healing. Eventually, it’s even possible to grow from your experiences, and get stronger by standing up for yourself.

Here is a selection of women and men over 40 taking that first step and finding their voices:


Making Sure Women’s Rights Are Human Rights (TheCovey, September 2018 issue)

In Praise of Angry Women

Depression and Suicide among Midlife Women 

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  1. Sally Edelstein

    The daily onslaught of stories of sexual assault and their deniers has been triggering. More than once, I was sexually assaulted in college at boozy frat parties. More than once I would stumble back to my dorm shaken, upset, ashamed.
    It went unreported because that was the norm too.
    Because boys will be boys it was so easy to brush aside bad behavior.

    Because we convinced ourselves it was our fault. I was 40 before I ever said it out loud Unspoken of the pain was swallowed where it remained undigested for decades playing havoc with my psyche and my body. until it could be contained no more.
    This was 45 years ago and yet once again because of Bret Kavanaugh we are reminded that boys will be boys. .It is still a get out of jail free card, a free pass meant to trivialize male behavior their entire life. https://wp.me/p2qifI-4l0

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