For those of you who aren’t sports fans, you might not have heard about the child sexual abuse scandal that is rocking Penn State. You can read the complete details here.
In a nutshell, Jerry Sandusky was a football legend as a coach at Penn State. He has been charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing boys. Here’s the really sick part – He had access to these boys because he established a foundation called Second Mile to reach out to needy children.
I was stricken by the testimony of janitor James “Jim” Calhoun, who walked in on Jerry Sandusky alleged performing a sexual act on a boy in the shower:
“Jim said he ‘fought in the Korean war … seen people with their guts blown out, arms dismembered … I just witnessed something in there I’ll never forget,’ ” the testimony states.
In the early stages of healing from child abuse, I had a difficult time seeing my child abuse as a big deal. I could complete understand how seeing “people with their guts blown out, arms dismembered” would be traumatizing, but I couldn’t view my child abuse in the same way. I was truly shocked when my therapist told me that I had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD was a diagnosis for soldiers who had experienced trauma, not for children who endured abuse that “wasn’t that bad” because “others had it worse.”
I wasn’t able to view my PTSD as “serious” until reading Judith Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery. What was groundbreaking for me was her approach – The same PTSD that I experienced from child abuse is the same PTSD that soldiers experience after combat. It’s a disorder – a real disorder that explained many of my symptoms.
For some reason, I could understand PTSD better by applying it to a soldier than to myself. There was no question in my mind that someone who had “seen people with their guts blown out, arms dismembered” would understandably develop PTSD. I was able to view my disorder without a layer of shame.
I find it validating that this war veteran was that traumatized by seeing a child being abused and that he puts the trauma of child abuse on the same level as what he saw in Korea. Child abuse really is a “big deal,” even though we child abuse survivors often have a difficult time believing it.
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