More voices speaking out can change culture of sexual harassment, experts say

SEATTLE -- As the national conversation around sexual harassment has grown, so has the conversation on the local level in Seattle.

The latest person to come out and share their story of harassment is former USA goalkeeper Hope Solo. She adds her name to the growing list of local and nationally recognized faces sharing their stories of harassment or assault.

Solo says in an incident in 2013, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter grabbed her behind as she was stepping on the stage at an awards ceremony.

Blatter dismissed this allegation as “ridiculous.”

Lucy Berliner, director of the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault, says victims often don’t come forward for years because of fear.

“That’s why I have so much admiration for any victim that comes forward. They’re not wrong that it could actually go badly,” said Berliner.

Solo, one of the best-known American soccer players who helped lead the women’s team to Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012, joins Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart who recently detailed the abuse she endured for two years, saying she was molested at a relative’s house she used to visit and have sleepovers at.

DeAnn Yamamoto, with the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, says these public voices encourage both survivors of abuse and loves ones to get the support they need.

“Amazing impact when someone in the public eye talks about their own experiences, for survivors it helps them know that they’re not alone, and helps people in the public support survivors in our own lives,” said Yamamoto.

Accusations of sexual harassment have come to the national and local spotlight, affecting people from local politics and pro sports to Hollywood. Yamamoto says elevating this conversation can be a turning point on addressing harassment in our culture.

“We have to remember there is a perpetrator that did this, and prevention is about stopping the perpetrator. We have opportunities every day to make that cultural shift, that jokes about sexual assault are not appropriate, that behavior that crosses boundaries are not appropriate. It gives us the opportunity to stand in the gap to stop sexual assault,” said Yamamoto.

There are many resources when approaching the topic of sexual assault with family or friends.