Local counselor weighs in on national string of sexual misconduct allegations

Sexual misconduct scandals and their headlines impact

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - On Tuesday afternoon both CBS News and PBS announced the firing of Charlie Rose. The termination comes after several women accused the veteran newsman of sexual misconduct.

Over the last month dozens of sexual misconduct allegations have surfaced involving entertainers, Hollywood executives, actors, and politicians.

So what impact do all of these recent headlines have on sexual assault survivors across the country?

While sexual assault is a sensitive topic to talk about it, one local counselor WZZM 13 spoke to says seeing all of the coverage is encouraging. He feels, for far too long, we haven't talked about it enough.

"I think one of the things that often keeps survivors quiet, is the sense that they've experience this alone and that they won't have support and they won't be believed," Tom Cottrell said.

Cottrell is the Chief Programming Officer at the YWCA and a sexual assault counselor. 

"I think when the conversation begins to be more public, its almost like it established permission to talk about the pain that they've experienced." 

A pain Cottrell says often times survivors keep to themselves for years in fear of being criticized. 

"I think the wait is often predicated on shame, fear that they won't be believed and I think often just a coping mechanism that people engage in to try and forget and try not to think about it and move on with their life." 

But now that more survivors are stepping into the spotlight, Cottrell says its forcing everyone to have a conversation, how did we get here? How can we keep this from continuing to happen?

"I think we're seeing the conversation happen more with men in terms of talking about their role in keeping women safe. We're seeing community partners and other organizations take a look at themselves and how they're monitoring behavior," Cottrell said. 

"I hope this continues because it really can be a shift in how we approach sexuality, how we approach sexual assault, and how we approach respect for one another."

The YWCA of Grand Rapids provides counseling for child sex abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault of any age. The organization has a 24-hour helpline for anyone in need, you can reach it at 616-454-9922. 

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