According to The Sun Sentinel, long before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements gained nationwide momentum, Boca Raton psychotherapist Kristen Bomas had seen in more than three decades of practice just how “deep, pervasive and severe sexual harassment and sexual assault are in our society.”
To provide a local forum for women (and men) of all ages who’ve been impacted by these issues, Bomas — in partnership with the Palm Beach Tech Women’s Council — will host a free event March 20 in Delray Beach. Attendees will be offered a safe, supportive environment in which to share their experiences, as well as take comfort in knowing they’re not alone.
According to The Sun Sentinel, “Both #MeToo and #TimesUp say, ‘I understand you and I connect with you because I too have had that experience’ — which is a truly a grand statement of unity,” says Bomas. “This wave of female energy is all about uniting, which is why women are intuitive, cognitively, emotionally and physically connecting to these campaigns.”
At the event, Bomas will stress the need for women to embrace more than just the general themes — awareness, support, solidarity, and prevention — of the two movements.
“For people who have had these experiences, there also needs to be personal healing — and a path forward.”
Bomas has counseled clients through the process of healing from sexual abuse.
She believes the first — and most crucial — step in healing is awareness.
“For women who have been socialized to accept that females are subordinate to males, they may not understand the power dynamics that are being used against them,” says Bomas.
Another common tendency for women who’ve had these experiences is to blame themselves, she says.
According to The Sun Sentinel, During therapy Bomas helps them reframe the experience(s) so that women can “disentangle themselves from feeling that they’re responsible for the behavior of abusive or predatory men.”
Next comes putting the experiences in their proper perspective. For women who have been traumatized by sexual harassment, discrimination and/or assault, the challenge often is in not letting it be the predominant way in which they define themselves.
“In the context of the history of a woman’s life, these experiences are a part of it, a chapter — but they should not be the woman’s identity,” explains Bomas.
According to The Sun Sentinel, In fact, Bomas adds that she virtually never uses the term “victim” in these discussions “because it conveys a negative sense of identity. Rather, I try to help women see that this happened to them — but it’s not who they are.”
Bomas believes that gaining “mastery” of the experiences — and moving forward from them — puts women in a position to “unleash the power they hold within. I don’t like the word ‘empower’ because that connotes that women don’t already possess the power that they do.”
Of course, righting the wrongs of the past and changing professional cultures in the real world is an uphill task. For instance, last week the Florida 4th District Court of Appeal threw out a $400,000 verdict that a female police dispatcher won against the village of Tequesta after she was groped and sexually propositioned by the department’s police chief during a 2011 party celebrating a co-worker’s promotion.
As The Palm Beach Post reported, “A new trial must be held because of a new, tougher standard [adopted in 2013] the West Palm Beach-based court has embraced in employment retaliation cases.”
But regardless of the civil court challenges women face going forward, Bomas stresses that personal healing should be the top priority.
“Healing starts when you confront — and gain mastery over — your secrets. I always tell my clients, ‘Secrets destroy.’”
What: Night of New Beginnings; hosted by Boca Raton psychotherapist Kristen Bomas in conjunction with the Palm Beach Tech Women’s Council
When: 6 p.m. March 20
Where: Old School Square’s Ocean Breeze Room (51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach)
Registration: Admission is free; visit kristenbomas.com to reserve a seat.