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Why We Don’t Tell

We don’t tell because we are ashamed.

We don’t tell because it was a friend, a colleague we respect, a public figure with a reputation at stake.

We don’t tell because we want the job, the connection, the networking.

We don’t tell, even though we were coached by just about anyone in our lives that we should. Say something, they said. Tell someone, a friend, a counselor, a teacher, a cousin, a doctor, the police.

But we don’t.

We don’t tell because of what we get in response. And we don’t know who we can trust.

Will it get back to the perpetrator? Will I be dismissed for the “insignificance” of it all?

“You misunderstood the context.” Tell me, what’s the context in an unwanted photo or video, or a purposefully “misplaced” hand?

“It was just banter.” But when I said I wanted no part of it, that meant no. Didn’t it?

“He’s not your boss, so what’s the big deal?” Really?

And you wonder why we don’t tell.

Too many stories are not told because of the reception we get.

And the cycle of silence continues. Suppression becomes a lifelong habit. It’s learned behavior.

If you were silenced once, you will find that your silence becomes easier the next time.

I know too many women who have downplayed social situations that turned sour. Silence was their learned behavior. I know too many women who suffered in silence when a networking opportunity deteriorated into predatory behavior. I know too many women whose “let’s meet over coffee” turned into unwanted sexual texts, photos and videos, for whom networking became a nightmare. And attempts to get the word out resulted in retaliation.

And the cycle of silence continues.

We learn that silence is easier. It’s the path of least resistance. The silence continues because we are scared, because we are ashamed, because we are threatened, because we risk our careers.

The silence remains because institutions meant to hear us sometimes don’t hear us at all.

Actually, worse than those who don’t hear are those who do hear but say, “I don’t want to get involved.”

It’s become too painful to share our stories because we don’t feel safe.

The time has long since come for us to feel safe and to be heard.

So if a woman tells you her story, listen. Even if it happened years ago, listen. Connect her to other women. In this case, 1+1 is way more than 2.

Silence is not golden. Silence is license for him to do it again.

No more sotto voce. Share their stories.

International Women’s Day isn’t a celebration until we can tell our stories and we are heard.

If you know someone with a story, or you have your own story you have yet to tell, share this this blog post instead. I will hear you. And maybe so will millions of others.

About the Author
Ariella Bernstein lives in Jerusalem with her husband Avi Losice. Ariella and Avi are co-authors of the book Aliya: Home, Hope, Reality about the emotional impact of Aliyah on families we leave behind, and how to navigate these long distance relationships. Together with their children, they are an adopted family to olim and their home is open to anyone who needs one. Ariella made Aliyah in 2009, she works in investor relations, and volunteers in Jerusalem’s tech sector ecosystem as a mentor to start-ups.
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