Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse Should Not Be This Hard.

there's a difference

Our headlines are full of politicians and priests and ministers and teachers and doctors  who have abused children.  We turn our anger towards the individuals and the organizations – meaning the disembodied structure.

This is a plea.

Politicians and priests and minister and teachers and doctors … and parents, and anyone else … even the organizations … cannot do what they do without the support of the people around them.  There are people around the paedophiles, who at worst support and aid what they do, and at best, know and do nothing.  There are people who did not know but when they find out, do nothing.  There are people who make the victim the criminal.  People who do nothing to reach out and support the victim.  People who close their eyes and say it does not involve them.

It has become popular to have compassion for the perpetrator, to be concerned about reconstructing their life.  We are not so keen on the survivors.  Perhaps that is because these people will carry the damage with them for the rest of their lives, a damage, that while they may learn to cope, to carry on  … they will still wrestle with it in moments of quiet, in the dark of the night when they are left alone with the pain.  There are real consequences for the survivors.  It is not something time can “heal” anymore than time can heal a severed arm.  Sexual abuse imprints on the soul.

I am trying to write this without the anger that I feel towards all the people who have said to a survivor, ‘you need to move on,”  “let it go already,”  “that was years ago…”  I think about all the people who shunned the survivors like they were dirty or did something wrong.  I think about a system that does not take into account the damage meted out by a sick pervert on a child, years later when that survivor is a drug addict, or struggling to get through life, or to have meaningful relationships, or dealing with constant health problems.

People do things accidentally that cause harm and we hold them to a higher accountability than we do paedophiles.  Someone who drinks and drives and hits a child, someone who leaves a gun out and a child is shot, someone who does not dispose of caustic materials and a child gets scarred … why?  Is it because the damage is visible?  A paedophile thought about what they were going to do, they chose a child, they continued on with no regard for the tears or cries from the child, they often threaten the child not to tell, they covered up their acts and they repeated them.  It is not just about the reprehensible act.  It is a sick idea, repeatedly carried out without any sense of the victim’s anguish.  WHY are they held less accountable?

Every one of us who are so shocked and disbelieving that our fellow church member, or family member, or beloved friend could do such a thing … every one who feels so sorry for THEIR family and what they are going through … spare a second to consider the life long damage done to the survivor … to THEIR families and friends.  Consider that their pain goes on long after the court case (if there is one) and long after the prison sentence (if there is one).

Life changes forever.

Survivors shouldn’t have to spend their lives making sure everyone else is ok dealing with what happened to them.

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4 thoughts on “Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse Should Not Be This Hard.

  1. Think about all of the people who suffered years ago when people weren’t so open. I read an article once on the statistics of rehabilitating criminals – and every one of them has a fair chance at changing except the pedophile. They don’t WANT to change, and no matter how long they are locked up – as soon as they get out they continue this life shattering behavior. It is an epidemic and I have my own views of what should happen to them – but that is for another post I think.

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    • I agree that is another whole issue. It galls me that they argue for society to accept them with love and understanding using homosexuality as a comparison. They say we accepted homosexuality, once thought to be deviant and they are no different. The difference is that heterosexuality or homosexuality involve willing, like minded partners whereas a paedophile’s partner has no choice and is often crying and screaming. They are not enjoying an equal give and take.

      The big thing is that there is no ongoing help for the children that are abused. The public cares only while the child is on the news and missing. We do not consider what the rest of their life is like and what the ongoing damages will be. And unfortunately, some of the worst offenders of helping the victims to get through their lives, are their own families and friends. These people should be given medals. They certainly should be given our compassion.

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  2. I am an abuse survivor and a Christian, having since regained my faith. I agree wholeheartedly with this post. What troubles me especially are well-meaning Christians who urge forgiveness on victims prematurely. This is done without any understanding of the extent of damage by abuse, and without allowing victims either to express their anger or mourn the loss of their innocence.

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    • Thanks Anna for sharing that. No-one can decide how a person should handle the process of healing or how long that should take. What we need to do is to be supportive and non-judgmental. As Oshi pointed out in a comment on this article in Google + – it is hard enough to deal with the experience itself, to have to deal with other’s judgment on top of that can be too much. Sometimes there is a feeling that forgiveness solves everything. There are practical realities that forgiveness cannot “erase.” When I speak to groups I share a simple story. If you get drunk and drive your car and crash into someone’s house in a car accident you can see the process of forgiveness. You can seek forgiveness from the Lord and receive it. But there are still things required of you by society – to meet their standards. You can be really sorry and pay the fines, and perhaps do jail time. You can say you are sorry, pay for the repairs to the house and the car, and pay the increased insurance premiums. You could go to rehab and stop drinking. That has met society’s expectations. You have out things right, or back to their original state, to the best of your abilities. That can take a few years. If, however, you lost your arm in that accident, neither God’s forgiveness nor societies is going to grow your arm back. THAT is the reality of what happened to you. Now you can get a prosthetic arm and learn to get by without your arm. Your life will not be the same but you will be able to manage. We understand physical scars and the permanence of them. Sexual Abuse is a spiritual scar. God’s forgiveness, society’s requirements … neither is going to make the scar go away. A person has to learn how to live with what has happened, how to cope. They cannot gain back what is lost but they will learn how to survive it. THAT is the part people need to realize. The abuse is ALWAYS going to be part of their life. We need to support them to find their coping skills.

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