Over the years, silence and secrecy have kept victims of sexual assault afraid to confront their attackers.

The ‘Me, Too’ movement that has been sweeping the centers of government and entertainment, has encouraged local victims to find their voices, as well.

Rebecca Weston is a licensed psychotherapist in Missoula, and formerly worked at St. Patrick Hospital’s First Step Resource Center.

“It’s the silence and secrecy that make people struggle in private and makes it hard to access help, and it also makes it hard for the community to know how ubiquitous these situations are,” said Weston from her Missoula office. “It happen in churches, it happens in schools, on basketball teams and so many places, and because it’s so secret, there’s a great deal of shame that emerges.”

Weston said many women are deeply afraid of the consequences of coming forward.

“As many of these stories have indicated, they also have tremendous fears of the consequences of sharing this information,” she said. “They can be personal from their family not believing them, or from an economic context. If they speak up, will they get fired? Will they be believed or even blamed?”

Weston said coming forward and confronting their pain can be deeply empowering for victims.

“There needs to be a cultural change in the workplace for people to speak out, and that seems to be happening now,” she said. “It’s so pervasive that people are a little less afraid to speak out. In my personal work with clients, it’s a hard journey, but I have never met one client who regretted it.”

Weston said the recent revelations of sexual assault in the workplace are also empowering men to come forward and speak out.

“How safe do we make it for men to step forward and say, ‘I don’t believe in this’, without them feeling ashamed? They want to say ‘I don’t like that macho-stuff either’. How do we allow men to do that? And, that’s why I think is so empowering both for men and women to open up the conversation and broaden the possibilities.