The Role of Power & Control in Recent Allegations

Recently our communities were shocked by the news of a lawsuit filed against law enforcement for alleged sexual assaults spanning many years. The horrifying public details of the allegations of sexual violence have spurred reactions of anger, confusion, and pain throughout our Somerset County community. Regardless of the outcomes, the traumatic impact of the allegations will have a lasting impact.  This is especially true for the survivors of sexual violence in our communities.   

Sexual violence can take many forms and consists of non-consensual behaviors that are sexual in nature, including targeting someone’s gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment, indecent exposure, groping, the non-consensual taking or sharing of sexual images or videos are some of the many forms of sexual violence.    

At Safe+Sound Somerset, we have seen time and time again, healing in these instances begins with connecting with someone trustworthy to share the pain of the experience. Public cases, including how the media and the community talk about the details and those involved can be triggering, especially for survivors – bringing back memories or flashbacks of violence, stirring feelings of fear and helplessness.  

Our mission compels us to ensure that individuals and communities have a place to turn whenever this type of violence occurs.  Safe+Sound Somerset is available to listen, support and provide services for anyone who has experienced any type of sexual violence. No matter how recently or long ago the violence happened, or where a person finds themselves in their journey, a path to safety, hope and healing is available through our free and confidential 24/7 call and text helpline at 866-685-1122 

Central to the allegations is the real and debilitating abuse of power and control.  

When we have personal power and control over our lives, we can make decisions for ourselves, set boundaries (emotional, physical, and sexual), give or take away consent, and keep safe. In the work we do, we often hear from individuals that the ability to make their own decisions contributes to their feelings of safety, respect, well-being and love.  

Healthy, consensual, feel-good interactions are based on equal power and control. Each person knows that they have the right to set their own limits and to say “Yes” or “No.” They trust that those boundaries will be respected and upheld by the other person.   

Conversely, sexual violence takes away power and control.  It is a purposeful choice to use sexual behaviors to control, manipulate or intimidate someone else. It is not about love, respect, attraction, sexual gratification, or jealousy. The person experiencing the violence loses their right to make decisions, set boundaries, and give or take away consent. Throughout our work, individuals report that when they are prohibited or prevented from saying “No” they feel scared, helpless, lost, and powerless. 

An individual in a supervisory or leadership role has authority – meaning power and control – over those they supervise or lead. It is nearly impossible to gain true consent or permission for sexual activity in these instances. Any request by a person in position of authority can be inferred as a threat by a subordinate, due to the imbalance of power and control.   

Thinking about someone we trust, as an individual or community, using their position of authority to take away someone else’s power and control, makes us all feel less safe and unable to live freely.  Safe+Sound Somerset works daily to create safe spaces and communities where healthy relationships can thrive in mind, body, and spirit.   

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, call or text our free and confidential 24/7 helpline at 866-685-1122, or for more information go to www.safe-sound.org.

If you would like to arrange a customizable workshop or training about sexual violence, including sexual harassment, please complete this Interest Form