top of page

Community Conversation | Understanding the Silence: Breaking the Barriers of Stigma

By Sunitha Chandy PsyD

Artesian Collaborative Community Conversations provide space for individuals to recognize they are not alone, connect with compassionate experts, and receive skills to support themselves toward the next step. Find our next conversation at

April 2024 --We wanted to create a safe and open space where people can come together and have an honest conversation about the reality of sexual harassment, violence, and assault. These are heavy but crucial topics that we need to speak up about if we want to bring about change in our lives and communities. The purpose of gathering together for a conversation, rather than a speaker series or a video resource, was to create an opportunity for us to listen to unheard voices. This helps us see the similarities in the pressures that keep people silent, gain a better understanding of how these factors affect different people, and learn how we can care for and support ourselves and those around us who are affected.

During our discussion, we identified the shared experiences that people are often scared to share. See this Conversation Moment here:

The reasons that inspired people to join were varied. They joined because they wanted to learn more, they had friends and family navigating the painful experience of assault, they had personal experiences, and worked in fields where they care for those deeply impacted by sexual violence. See this Conversation Moment here:

We discussed the fears we feel in talking about the topic of sexual assault and harassment as well as the thoughts, memories, and feelings in others that may be triggered. We collaborated on creating safety so we could feel supported to share moments of being impacted by one another’s stories as well as validation and care throughout the process to stay present.

The statistics around sexual harassment and assault are difficult to hear. The numbers vary depending on the sources you look at due to the many ways we can measure, categorize, and quantify those impacted. Just looking at the data from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center 81% of women, 43% of men, and 78% of trans/nonbinary experience sexual harassment and assault in their lifetime. See this Conversation Moment here:

Our discussion focused on ways to address the shame and relational disruption that is created when someone experiences assault or harassment. We discussed ways that healing can happen both by shifting how we think about ourselves and how we carry and care for our bodies. Community responses can vary from being a safe person to advocating and talking more about these issues. Just letting people know about events like this can create safety that these are acceptable topics to reduce community shame and judgment. We discussed how cultural differences in different religious and ethnic communities impact how these topics can be brought up and how to create protections and safety by discussing related topics like consent and body autonomy in an open way.

We also considered how important it is to just be present as a friend and dispel the “burden” myth. It is okay to be impacted by something painful happening to someone we care about and sometimes it is just bringing a meal over, having a chat, helping someone connect with a professional, and staying connected with the other people in their life who are also caring for them that allow us to carry the load and celebrate the growth all together. 

Lastly, we explored why silence is a problem. We validated that no one has to share anything about their traumatic and painful experiences unless they choose to. The reason why we want to have more brave communal spaces where people can speak up is to break down the way silence can reinforce the myth that a survivor did something to deserve what was done to them.

As a mental health organization, we have had the privilege of walking countless people through their stories of trauma and pain. The goal is never to unearth something just because, but to clear the ground so that individuals can continue to grow beautiful things that strengthen themselves and their communities. Relationships and communities play a vital role in healing the after effects of harassment and assault and it was a gift to gather with others to discuss and collaborate on ways to strengthen our communities to continue to break down the barriers or stigma.

We would love to help you break down the barriers of stigma in your community. Contact us to discuss facilitating a community conversation with your team or group. See more information here.

We also provide Sexual Harassment Prevention Training that meets all Illinois and City of Chicago compliance standards and…goes beyond checking the box. See our website for more information.


Let's talk about the hard stuff.

Artesian Collaborative is a mental health practice based in Chicago. We excel at guiding individuals and teams through tense and difficult topics - and helping them feel good about it.

Our therapists provide mental health counseling for individuals, couples, and families. Our team also leads corporate and community trainings in the areas of Stress Management, Diversity Equity & Inclusion, and Relational Leadership.


bottom of page