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When Being A Survivor Hampers Your Career

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by Rick Dougherty

Photo by Sarah Chai from Pexels

When I started volunteering for Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence, one of the ideas I pitched was delving heavily into ways that survivors face tangible economic struggles beyond those normally mentioned in such conversations.  That piece is coming, but I often see anecdotal examples of this in my own life.  

When Values Hit Your Pocket Book

My main source of employment comes in the world of sales.  This job was drastically hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has only been in recent months that many of my colleagues and I have been able to start working our ways out of the hole of the last year-and-a-half.  Anything that might help bring in more sales and more potential clients is welcome at this time.

With that in mind, my boss managed to pull off something really big.  He put together a virtual event to which all of us could invite clients, potential clients, and friends.  This was going to be the biggest push yet towards helping us all snap out of the slump.  

As a survivor of abuse, sales have been a little bit of a struggle for me.  While I am very personable and knowledgeable about what I am selling, rejection is not easy for many survivors. Rejection is, however, a constant in the world of sales.  Still, I have powered through that discomfort to try and succeed in this job that I absolutely love.  

This event was going to be perfect.  We weren’t going to pressure anybody to buy anything.  We were just going to have a fun night that was going to make potential clients feel like friends.  It was just going to remind them that we are here.  It should have been a great opportunity for someone who doesn’t ever want to be pushy.  I couldn’t wait to start inviting my friends, family, and potential clients.

The Announcement

Finally, my boss announced everything that was going to be happening at this virtual event.  There it was…the major focus of the event.  He had secured a musician who is very popular in our industry to serve as the headliner of this virtual event.  This was someone extremely popular in our small community.  Our clients would know him, and many of them are probably fans of his work.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been a boon.  I have friends who have literally posted on Facebook about their fandom for this performer.  This event had the potential to supply me with goodwill from friends; contacts from potential clients who, by sheer knowledge of this performer, are the exact type of people who would spend a lot of money with us; and would have made a good impression on my boss.  The fact that he went to all of this trouble to get this performer was a big deal for him.

The only problem was that this performer also had multiple, credible accusations of sexual harassment leveled against him.     

If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall for Anything

At that point, I had to make an important decision that I believe all survivors deal with in one way or another.  I had to decide whether I would move forward with being a part of an event that would undoubtedly have helped my career, but would also have tested my morals.  

Our ideals are always solid when they are just theories.  When we are tempted, especially with potential financial gain, it really tests those values.  As survivors, we always seem to face the path of most resistance.  Most of us had to experience that resistance on a daily basis for years.  Nothing was ever easy.  Simple household chores could lead to explosive outbursts of anger, violence, and shame.  I think a lot of my fellow survivors would have given me a pass for just taking the path of least resistance this one time…especially for a little personal gain.  

There were a lot of things to consider.  Not only would turning down this opportunity potentially cost me sales that I desperately needed, but I would have to handle any withdrawal very carefully to not anger my boss.  Let’s be honest, survivors are always worried about being the ones who are “no fun.”  People tend not to think that they support abuse, and when you suggest that they may be supporting it in a particular instance, they aren’t likely to appreciate it.

Speaking out would also have the potential to serve as a big trigger in my own personal healing.  I have never met a survivor who hasn’t heard someone give their abuser the benefit of the doubt.  We have all had our stories questioned by those who don’t want to deal with the gravity of these situations.  The thought that my boss (although I have no reason to believe he would do this) would try to defend this man, or minimize the trauma of his victims, was not something I was prepared to put myself through in this circumstance.  

Acceptance

In all actuality, there was never any question.  I was going to do the right thing.  It didn’t seem like a place where I should alienate my coworkers and boss by making a scene about it.  They have all shown support for me as a survivor.  These are potential allies in other situations.  I decided that I would find an excuse that would make it seem like I just wasn’t able to be there for the virtual event.  This allowed me to keep my personal dignity, without putting myself through the awkward situation of distancing myself over my values.

I am not sure if I did the right thing, sometimes.  It makes me wonder if I could have made more people aware of these credible allegations.  Maybe if everybody knew the details that his victims discussed, they would support me in having him removed from the event.  In the end, I did what I thought was the best for my mental health, while also holding the line that I would not make any money off of a predator.

These are the small financial hits that do not show up in research papers on the effects Domestic Violence plays on finances.  Many of my coworkers who did not make the same moral decision I made were able to make a lot of money off of that virtual event.  They benefited financially from someone they were most likely aware was a sexual predator.  In the long run, we have to live with ourselves.  Had I racked up the sales after attending that event, I never would have been able to forgive myself.  I couldn’t take the blood money.  

Lessons

This was just an anecdote.  There was no research.  That research will show up in my future work on the financial impact of Domestic Violence.  With this story, I hoped to remind you of similar situations in your own lives.  Maybe you had to make a similar decision, and nobody gave you that proverbial pat-on-the-back.  It would be great if you could see, through this piece, that many of us have made similar sacrifices, and we appreciate you.  If you faced a similar situation and decided not to rock the boat, I hope you read this and can understand how close I came to making that same choice.  There is nothing wrong with doing that.  

As survivors, we often hold ourselves to higher moral standards.  It is inevitable that we will do that.  Still, it should not be expected of us.  We are allowed to make mistakes, and we shouldn’t be forced to hold ourselves to a higher standard of integrity.  

Even after we have healed, we must see all of the ways that our past abuse can hinder our future growth.  The very act of healing can hinder you, as a matter of fact.  The only thing we can do is reach out to other survivors when needed and do our best.   

Photo by Sarah Chai from Pexels 

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