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'Speaking up never makes you popular or famous. It never brings any amount of joy or happiness to your life. Yet, we as a society, tend to instinctually side with the accused'

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Girres lives in Scappoose and authors a blog at afiercemind.com. She recently appeared as a source in a Spotlight article focused on an incident when she was a teen. In the article, Girres relays her experience of former Scappoose High School gym teacher, Robert Medley, taking photos of of her without her permission, including a close up photograph of her chest. That story published June 15 and is titled "Scappoose athletic director leaves districgt."

I am writing to you in hopes of enlightening the community to a very real problem in our society as a whole: victim shaming.

I understand this issue stems from a good place. We, as humans, want to believe that we are surrounded by mostly good people. It's far more comforting to believe sexual predators only exist in the darkness and that they're only the types of people who are strangers to us all. It's far less scary to believe sexual predators have a certain look and demeanor to them, possessing obvious qualities that would make them easily identifiable. We don't want to believe these types of monsters would be amongst us parading around disguised as our coworkers, people we call friends, or even family. And we most certainly don't want to believe these types of people would be lurking amongst our children hiding behind titles such as teacher, coach, or mentor.

Unfortunately, these beliefs are not our reality.

The only thing right about this type of belief system is that, yes, often these types of people do share a common demeanor — but it's not what you would like to think. These types of monsters don't get away with what they get away with by being stereotypical scary, mean, creepy people amongst their peers. They get away with this behavior by befriending and establishing an emotional connection with their victims, and sometimes even the victim's family, to lower everyone's inhibitions. It's called "grooming." These types of people are professionals at choosing their victims. They are master manipulators in that they home in on certain weaknesses and drive a wedge between any kind of support system their victim's may have. They capitalize on someone's need to feel loved and wanted. They often detour people's attention to their questionable behaviors by being overly kind and helpful. 

These types of people also know how difficult it is to be convicted of such crimes. It requires a victim to, first, muster enough courage to speak up, to essentially tell the world their most private and traumatizing of life experiences. And not just once, they have to tell it over and over and over to a variety of different types of people ranging from their loved ones to the police to counselors to a courtroom full of strangers, including their perpetrator. They have to relive the event over and over and over while being met with questions, doubts, feelings of shame, embarrassment, unfound guilt, and, often, derogatory attacks on their own character.

Speaking up never makes you popular or famous. It never brings any amount of joy or happiness to your life. Yet, we as a society, tend to instinctually side with the accused rather than giving the accuser the benefit of the doubt, simply because, why would anyone choose to put themselves through that type of public beating for no reason?

Please, understand that focusing on all of a sexual predator's seemingly positive qualities does not change the fact that their behaviors are wrong and inexcusable. This type of reaction is why so many people live with such a heavy secret. In

a constant state of guilt and shame. Fearing judgement and retaliation.

"One doesn't have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient."

— Charles M. Blow

Contract Publishing

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