Archive for August 2nd, 2010

I have been traveling and have not been able to tend to my blog. If you posted a comment that is not appearing yet, this would be why. I will try to catch up in the next couple of days.

Yesterday, we got on the topic of child abuse in my Sunday School class. We read a Bible verse about the Israelites “throwing their sons and daughters on the fire” (child sacrifice), and someone made a comment about this no longer happening today. Of course, I climbed up on my soapbox and talked about the many ways that children are still being sacrificed in our society – through child pornography, turning a blind eye to suspected abuse, etc. I talked about it being everyone’s responsibility to intervene on behalf of children. I then quoted the statistics – that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 to 7 men are sexually abused by age 18. (I didn’t have the statistics for all forms of abuse, but including physical and emotional abuse would obviously increase these numbers.)

One father of two children (ages 13 and 10) was floored by the statistics and quite freaked out. I reassured him about how their best protection was growing up in a loving and safe home, which he is already providing. Then, he asked an interesting question that I would like to explore here – If such a high percentage of the population has been abused, then why don’t child abuse survivors have a stronger public voice? He pointed out that, even if 1/10 of those who had been abused spoke out, it would make for a powerful advocacy group that the rest of society could not ignore.

I don’t have a clear-cut answer to his question, but my first instinct is that the culprit is shame. As long as a person feels shame for being abused, he is much less likely to announce publicly that he has been abused and speak out about what society needs to do to stop the abuse. I think another culprit is that a large percentage of child abuse survivors have not worked through the healing process. Many live their lives pretending like it did not happen and/or using various coping strategies to avoid facing the healing process. Then, they heap on the shame of the coping mechanism, believing that nobody will listen to “an alcoholic,” “a cutter,” “an anorexic,” etc.

This man makes a good point – we have the numbers to change society. If enough of us spoke out about our own histories, we could change public misconceptions such as the widespread misconception that repressed memories mean that the abuse didn’t happen or that all abused children just grow up to abuse others. (Please know that I do not intend this blog entry to be a guilt trip for any child abuse survivor to speak out before he or she is ready to do so. I could not have done it a few years ago, and I know how hard I worked to reach a place where I could.)

I think the other hurdle is public resistance to hearing our stories. Most people can handle hearing about my “mainstream” abuse, but they turn into skeptics if I discuss any of the less talked about abuses, such as ritual abuse or animal rape. “Good” people don’t want to believe that this level of evil and depravity exists in the world. (I only wish I had that luxury!) It takes someone who has worked through the healing process and is very confident in his or her own truths to fight through that resistance. I believe only a very small percentage of child abuse survivors have healed enough from the less talked about types of child abuse to have reached a place that they feel confident enough to take on societal denial like that. I have done it – I still get shaky when facing a roomful of people who don’t want to believe that child abuse can be that twisted.

What are your thoughts on this? There is no question that we have the numbers to change society’s perception of child abuse and fight back, but we are not yet making much of a wave in society at large. Why do you think that is? How can we change this?

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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