With all the recent news stories about Penn State’s child sexual abuse, I found myself listening in a very half-hearted manner as the news media talked on and on about every detail of the story. Trying to unravel sex abuse stories can certainly be a daunting task and most people are genuinely surprised to find that even people who see abuse happening and know of its existence, more times than not, will fail to report the abuse.
I grew up in a sexually abusive home. My story is not really much different than the news story which has captured the attention of this nation. People who knew about my abuse allowed it to continue, it’s just as simple as that. After working for a number of years in sexual abuse recovery groups, almost every sexual abuse survivor will tell a very similar story. People don’t want to know that a family member is sexually abusing their child. Denial is a very strong force in these situations. Reporting sexual abuse is akin to lighting a stick of dynamite. Once the truth is reported, there are repercussions. Most abusers will deny their deeds, which puts the person who reports abuse in a precarious position of having to prove it. An abused child may or may not tell the truth about the abuse. Many times, children are afraid if they “tell” that something bad will happen to them or to a family member. This kind of thinking is ingrained into the child’s mind by the abuser, who has carefully “groomed” the child prior to the actual abuse. To report sexual abuse truly opens a can of worms and most people will simply choose not to get involved in such a mess.
When abuse goes without being reported to authorities, the abuser is further empowered to repeat the abusive acts upon many more victims. A person who chooses to sexually abuse a child, rarely abuses only one child.
The difference in Penn State’s sexual abuse story is heavily colored by the fact that this involves a college sports team. When we hear the horror stories of a well-liked coach losing his job because he failed to stand up to an abuser and actually help an abused child, our hearts are torn. We like the coach and to see him lose his job hurts him and us. But then, we remind ourselves that what really matters is the children who have suffered at the hands of this abuser. We know that is the most important thing in this case, but we don’t know the children. We know the coach because he is a prominent figure in the sports world. The abused children are faceless and voiceless. And then, of course, there is the fact that we love our sports in this country.
My heart goes out to the coaches and other adults who knew about the abuse at Penn State. They were thrust into a situation they did not choose. However, once knowledge of sexual abuse is present, each one of us has an obligation to report it and take a strong stand against it. Child sexual abuse is rampant in this country and around the world. Denying it will not help. Sweeping it under the rug will not help. Pretending not to see, will not help. Helping is messy and it takes a toll on the person who chooses to report it. It will cost you something, but in the long run, imagine how much better you will feel inside, knowing that you helped stop a perpetrator.
The Penn State abuse story is on-going, but the abuser is no longer in a position to continue the sexual abuse; and that is the best news of all.
Source: My Life