Friday, April 22, 2011

Let's Talk

Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month
There's a crime, an abomination that is so very common but that we rarely talk about. Children being sexually abused by adults, often by adults known to them, by adults they and their parents trust. This happened to me, multiple times, and it has probably happened to most of the women you know, and some of the men. Yet do you know what's most horrifying?

If you're not a survivor yourself, read the survivor's stories on the Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month blog. In all the entries I have read, my own stories, the other stories I have heard, the child, the victim feels ashamed and guilty. She often doesn't talk about it to her parents and rarely tries to get her abuser punished. She is scared out of her wits and feels the abuse is somehow her fault.

Do you see the contradiction here? Sexual abuse of children is so common, and I'm sure everyone except abusers (or potential abusers?) would agree it's a heinous crime. Yet each time a child gets abused, he seems to face that fear alone. It's not enough to deal with the fact of being abused; he also has to deal with the fear that he somehow brought it on himself. Each time, he has to wonder if he'll be believed if he speaks out.

Being a victim is scary. Having no one to talk it over with is scarier. It can be liberating to finally talk to someone about it (be it a therapist, a friend or a parent) and be reassured that it wasn't one's own fault. To be told that there are other victims out there, that it doesn't mean there was something wrong in the victim, that he or she was singled out.

There is advice on the CSA Awareness blog on how to deal with abuse and how to protect your children. But here, today, I ask you to do one thing.

Stand up and be counted. Speak out against abuse.

We are blogging this month, but it doesn't have to stop this month. It shouldn't stop at blogging. Talk to your friends. To your parents, if you can. Your siblings, your neighbors.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you have to share a story if you're a survivor. Share what you feel comfortable with, don't come out as a survivor if you don't want to. I have been there, and I know it's difficult.

But for the rest of you, don't keep mum if someone says child abuse is rare. You know it isn't.

If you see an adult treating a child inappropriately, speak out. You don't have to accuse them, but make sure they notice your presence and know you'll not turn a blind eye.

Tell the children in your life: your children, your younger siblings, your nephews or nieces, that they shouldn't be afraid of coming to you if they are unhappy. Tell them that you'll always love and protect them. Hope that they'll never have to, but make it easier for them to tell you if something happens.

Most of all, talk. Not talk in hushed voices and behind closed doors. But talk on the streets, in parties, in classrooms. Talk with anger in our voices, anger at the abusers. Talk with pain and sympathy for all of us survivors. Help all survivors feel they aren't alone, that they can get over this just as others did.

Let's talk now. And keep talking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for highlighting the plight facing many of our children today:)