Over the past week we have had the privilege of speaking with young women who were brave enough to talk about abuse in their own lives – abuse that happened because a man in authority used his power to bully, intimidate and confuse them about what was right and wrong.
These young women are heroes for speaking up.
But, just like other women we have spoken to who have been abused, (and the numbers are staggering), these young women had a hard time recognizing something so very important: abuse doesn’t have to leave physical scars to cause pain. It also doesn’t have to leave physical scars to be actionable (meaning grounds for legal action).
Just like the gymnasts who endured years of abuse by Larry Nassar and other authority figures in their world (doctors, coaches, USAG officials and others), the women we talked to this week were the epitome of what-we-tell-girls-they-need-to-be: smart, hard-working, beautiful, disciplined, respectful and just downright nice.
Sadly but not unusually, these positive qualities made them perfectly suited for a predator to take advantage of their niceness and manipulate them into thinking that his beyond-creepy behavior and verbal and written abuse was OK — e.g. that it was their “job” to accept his caustic and sexually inappropriate words and actions because he was older and in a position of power (with money to boot)!
So here is our message to these young woman and to every other girl and young woman out there who is wondering if she has been abused:
IF IT FEELS LIKE ABUSE, IT PROBABLY IS.
In specific, if someone (particularly someone in an authority position) intentionally causes severe mental or emotional anguish, he or she can be subject to the laws regarding the intentional infliction of emotional distress. We work with lawyers who will make sure they are held accountable under the law for inflicting emotional distress. (We are not lawyers!)
Despite the fact that emotional abuse can be every bit as debilitating as physical abuse, we as a culture are just realizing how prevalent bullying, threatening and sexually implicit emotional abuse truly is – in our schools, at our workplaces, in our elite sports and even in our churches.
At A Case for Women, it is our privilege and mission to help women harness the power of legal action, not only to help themselves, but to change the systems that have hurt women for so long.
If you suspect that you have been abused, please know that we are a safe place and that you can confide in us.
– Susan & Jordan
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