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.