You may not like Andrew Cuomo. You may not believe the particular set of allegations lodged against him.
Hell, maybe you do believe them and hope they are true because you don’t like him that much…which is sick. So sick that it physically pained me to write that sentence. But I know that thinking is out there because I’ve seen it every day since these brave women began to tell their stories.
If proven true, these allegations mean that at least 7 women suffered trauma that will never leave them. And for many, it was repeated. Let the investigation bear that out.
But please, don’t joke about them. Someone you love is watching and listening.
Maybe it’s a friend or family member who has faced a similar situation…or one much worse, and has struggled with coming forward because they worry about how they will be treated. Your words and jokes are showing them.
Maybe it’s a child who will see or hear what you say and be led to believe that this alleged behavior and jokes about it are normal. Something to just live with. Something to do to others and something to just take quietly when it happens to you or someone you love. Your attitude is showing them.
Maybe it’s an aggressor who will see your jokes as an invitation to continue. Your jokes help them feel like this just isn’t a big deal. That it’s just how men are. They are a permission slip to continue.
Let’s stop acting like our words don’t matter.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t laugh and joke about things that are truly funny, but please know, sexual assault and harassment are NEVER funny, but when we laugh about it, we normalize it. What a terrible legacy to continue to pass on. It’s shameful. Disgusting. It’s always too soon.
The effects of sexual assault and harassment are long-lasting. They work through your body like a cancer. They eat you alive and convince you that you deserved it. That your struggle with it means that you’re just not tough enough to cope. That you should be strong enough to “just forget”.
You never “just forget.” That’s not how trauma works.
And when you do find a way through, it still often means that when others talk about it, you laugh with them. Because that’s what makes them comfortable. That’s what makes them feel better about not stepping up, not offering support, not believing you, or worse, believing you did something to deserve it. Their comfort is NOT more important than your feelings. If you’ve been here, please stop laughing with them.
I’ve done it. I will not do it any longer. I’ve laughed with others about an incident in my life. Every laugh feels like a jab to the gut, something you take just to prove you’re okay. It’s been about comfort for others, not healing for me. If they care about your healing, they’ll never expect you to laugh with them.
So, please stop with the Cuomo jokes. Please. Not only do they normalize this despicable behavior, they take survivors right back to the terror and judgment and shame they felt surrounding the incident that changed them.
And it does. It changes you. Forever.
And if it doesn’t, please know that that’s not strength. It’s luck. Remember that we all process our emotions and traumas differently. Give grace rather than making a joke or passing judgment.
I hope you never have to know what it means to be harassed or assaulted, to go, in a split second, from feeling like a human to becoming nothing more than an object. To fear retribution not just from your aggressor, but from people you thought would be in your corner. To know some think it’s funny that it happened to you.
And when victims of assault and harassment speak up, shut up. Listen. Let them speak and don’t tell them they should just get over it. And if you can’t help, help them find the help that you might not be able to offer.
What we say and do and send out into the world in moments like this one matters. Your words, your actions, and your attitude might be the difference between someone you love very much suffering in silence or using their voice, and having your support, in their journey to be free of their trauma.