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Mar 25, 2010

The Power of a Sole Voice

This post was inspired by a recent "A Current Affair" (news program here in Australia) piece on reports of sexual abuse in the a popular 80's tv show.


Childhood sexual abuse is a taboo topic, to be never spoken about in polite society. And often, not even among family members and those you love the most.

Sadly, childhood sexual abuse thrives in silence. As the daughter of paedophile, I grew up knowing all too well the powers of silence, manipulation and fear. Living, breathing, haunting fear.

But equally, I have spoken up, and have seen the many and varied impacts my choice has had on my life. In many ways, me speaking up was just as traumatic as the actual abuse. My case was severely mishandled by the authorities from start to finish. My family (both immediate and extended) was destroyed, never to be reformed as it was.  My father never served his full sentence (which was small to start with), and now lives in a major city close to schools, parks, pools etc.

So I am well aware as to why people remain silent about their abuse, and keep it tightly wrapped up inside, never to be spoken of again. I can also understand why people don't report their abuse to authorities.

However, I am firm believer in the power that lies in revealing the truth. It is an incredibly powerful thing to speak up when you, as both victim and survivor, are ready.  In my case, the timing may have been wrong for others, but for me, I was at breaking point: I no longer wanted to play the happy family. As it was to turn out, I had to play the game for another 2 years: thanks to incompetent authorities, and a father who was an expert at manipulation and trickery. Those 2 years were sheer hell: I had been promised that if I would speak up, I would never have to see him again. Instead I saw him night and day for the next 2 years.

But the actual act of speaking out to my close friend M? Was completely priceless. To be validated and told that yes, I was speaking the truth, and that yes, it had happened to her too is/was an experience that changed my life totally. Yes the 2 years after were hell, but ultimately? When I left home (after which he was finally charged), I could hold my head up high and know that I had done the very best job that I (as a teenager) could do. In saying that, I have a few recommendations that I would make to others that come after me, and that I wish someone had told me.

  • Do have a "safe house" option for after you report (trusted friends, family etc) . You may not (regardless of what anyone may tell you) be removed. So plan ahead, and be prepared to put that plan into action yourself
  •  Be prepared to be deeply questioned, doubted and ignored, particularly if you have a very well presented family image. The bigger the image, the harder it will be to get someone to listen. Be prepared to tell everything to people who appear not to care. And be prepared to tell it all, in every horrible, horrifying detail
  • Remember that by your actions you may save others that may be abused after you. If someone does molest/abuse/rape you, chances are that they have:
      • a) done it before to another child,
      • b) will do it again to another child, 
      • c) or has done it before and will do it again.
  • And above all, talk, talk talk. Talk to your friends, talk to your family. What you find out might surprise you. And if someone does try to "shut you up", talk louder. You are doing the right thing. 
Every situation is different, and these points won't apply to everyone. But if one person can use what I have learnt, then this post would fulfilled its purpose. 



shadowspring said...

OMG,This is priceless!!!!!

This post should be made into a pamphlet for Child Protective Services, Rape Crisis Centers, Parent-Teacher Associations, 12 Step and other mental health groups for survivors, etc. Everyone should know these things!

I have reported child abuse, sure that not only was it my moral and legal obligation, but under the delusion that justice would be served.

I am still sick to my stomach remembering how I reassured the frightened boy that DCF would protect him, that I had to report the bruises. And then, his worst fears were confirmed.

They didn't investigate for over a week, the bruises were gone, and when they left, leaving him in the abusive home, his mom was mad as hell!

The bruise was a hand-print on his chest!!! Where his mother had shoved him across the room when he was frightened by the drunken sex noise she was filling up the house with at 2am when the bar closed!!!

And DCF did nothing!

Yet it was still the right thing for me to do. It was the government that fudged it. And at least there was now one more link in the paper trail against that abusive home. I only hope it helped somehow later on, legally.

But this I know, emotionally, it did help that boy that I listened! It did help that boy that I told him repeatedly that he did not deserve this, that his mom was a crazy bit**, and that he deserved to be loved and cared for.

I know because even though my mom never stopped being crazy and abusive, and the few times anyone intervened were legally impotent, still the very act of caring enough to say my mom was wrong to treat us that way, it kept me going.

Excellent, excellent post!!

janice said...

Great post, great courage. I spoke up, my family members believed me, the adults protected the children that could have been the next victims. I am so sorry you had to live those extra 2 years.

Lorena said...

Yes, this is a great post. I particularly like the part about being misunderstood.

I was verbally and physically abused by my mother and siblings. My home was a veritable hell.

Yet family friends and relatives still want me to deny what happened. They still chastise me for not honouring my mother. They still say it is my responsibility to love her and to look after her.

You won't be shocked to hear that the place where I was most humiliated and made to feel guilty was church, by sermons, pastors, and churchgoers.

But the problem is a societal issue. Let's face it. Nobody likes to hear sad stories. So what people are basically saying is, "Listen, I don't give a shit about your problems. I have my own to deal with, so leave me alone and go tell your miserable stories to somebody else."

Grace said...

Powerful words Jo. I agree with Shadowspring, a pamphlet like this should be provided to organisations that work with children and might need to be aware of this kind of abuse.


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