Spouses, colleagues, brothers and sisters, friends and children of the predators suffer discreetly these days. They are, according to specialists, the collateral victims of the wave of denunciations.
For the past few weeks, victims are reporting on social networks for acts of sexual harassment or assault, often by naming publicly their attackers. The shame overwhelms relatives of these while the word of victims is released. These people find themselves in the dead angle of the second wind of the movement, which began in 2017 with #MoiAussi.
“The spouses and the children are between the tree and the bark”, a summary of the sex therapist Natacha Godbout, who teaches at the department of sexology at UQAM.
“They wonder if they must leave the person or go away. Nobody wants to be accomplice of an assault, or to have the air to encourage an aggressor. It is very difficult to keep a relationship in this context. At the same time, there is a lived shared, a story that is not in phase with that told on social networks,” she added.
The guilt, turmoil, also the relatives of those who have been appointed on account Instagram as @victims_voices_montreal. This page, which was attended by 77 000 internet users on Monday, had published several dozens of anonymous witnesses naming of the perpetrators. She has suddenly withdrawn all its publications.
A sense of responsibility can be felt by the entourage of the attackers, confirmed the psychologist Stephane Bujold.
“There’s an element of amazement as to the victims who are tempted to repeat the events thread to see their responsibility or what they could have done wrong.”
“The relatives will ask, “what is this that I have not seen it?”, “why is it that I have not given importance to some of the events?” and there it is in a search for meaning that includes a lot of guilt and fear. “
In this regard, Natacha Godbout was keen to reassure those who might be tempted to place blame on themselves because they were not witnesses to anything, because they have nothing knew to detect.
“We can’t know. It is difficult. It is important to keep an eye open, stay alert, be attentive to the signs… At the same time, it is not necessary to put this burden on the shoulders of relatives, who will often blame.”
Some will choose to strike out at the aggressors against their lives, to break off all contact, and others will remain with them. There is no right answer to this dilemma, according to the sexologist. “Regardless of their decision, the relatives will feel misunderstood.”
“It is a terrible thing to say, but if [the perpetrator] is abandoned by all the world at a moment when he was most vulnerable, is this person going to be able to relearn how to be in society in a healthy way?”, if she is questioned.
Words in the air?
As for the therapies promised by the assailants, who have published their apology or mea culpa after having been pointed out, Stephane Bujold does not hide his skepticism.
“The admission of guilt public, it is well for the victims. It is a good thing, but it is easy to write a short text on the social networks saying “I’m going to therapy” and so on…”
“In my profession, what I do know is that there are people who promise change and then do nothing, who do not put efforts”, he added.
If you need someone to talk to, you can find a listening centre to www.lignedecoute.ca or contact Listen to self-help, the 1-855-365-4463 (toll-free).