On Monday, Bella Thorne bravely posted her story on Instagram. She captioned a photo with her story of being sexually and physically abused until the age of 14 when she “finally had the courage to lock my door at night and sit by it.” During a time in Hollywood when sexual assault and harassment is at the forefront of the collective conversation, we cannot forget the courage it takes for an individual to come out and say their story.
This isn’t the first time Bella Thorne has shared her story. Replying to an individual on Twitter who asked, “What did Disney do to this girl?! I think she was molested,” Bella Thorne replied with “Yeah, I was. So it wasn’t Disney.”
Using the same photo as her Instagram post, she posted to Twitter: “I never knew what was right or wrong growing up..I didn't know the person sneaking into my bedroom at night was a bad person. #timesup”
Bella Thorne’s reputation is not “squeaky clean” in the public eye. Like many others who make a name for themselves on Disney, Bella Thorne made an effort to strip away the “good girl” image that so many viewed her with. This included going out and showing off a “no care” attitude with her social media.
For some, this new “bad girl” image makes her sexual and physical abuse an unimportant issue, and Thorne’s trauma is perceived as a way to “explain” her behavior now. But victim shaming is never acceptable. What an individual decides to wear or how they decide to act does not mean they deserved anything that has happened in their past, or, just as importantly, deserve any abuse in the future. It is disheartening to scroll through Bella Thorne’s recent Twitter activity and see a reply where she says, “fact that I have to explain myself. Trust me I knew him I saw his fucking face every single time don’t think I’ll ever forget a part of him.”
No one should ever have to explain their sexual assault in the way that Bella Thorne has. Victim shaming is an issue that, in 2018, we should have moved beyond. But unfortunately, there is still so much work to be done to ensure that individuals are believed and supported and heard when they share their stories, in a show of strength, bravery, and resilience.
So what do we do? How do we see these stories and simultaneously fight our own preconceived perceptions of someone we may see as having an “unsavory” reputation? How do hold back our judgment of someone who might behave in a way we don’t agree with?
We separate reputation from the individual.
Reputation should have no bearing on our ability to believe and support someone who comes forward about their sexual abuse.
It’s 2018. It’s time we truly start supporting survivors of sexual assault, and that means leaving our judgment at the door.