Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Appalling Abuse Minimization

I came across another parent-oriented prevention article today, and a separate one talking about the effect on victims. A similar article, also by the Buffalo News, advocates more notices about sex offenders.

The problem with how we approach child abuse is that we focus on what we have been told- that sex offenders will offend again (95%, on average, do not), that strangers are to blame (5% of the time), and that children must be educated about what is and is not okay for people to do to them.

Minimization

The issue I have with all of these articles is that they systematically minimize abuse. Yes, you read that right- they minimize abuse. Child abuse is not an issue you can solve by focusing on the people who have already been caught- do we try to prevent murder by looking only at those who have already murdered? No, of course not. By continually turning public attention towards victims' stories- the horrific, stand-out stories that the news constantly beats into us, as if it is an example of all abuse- we are taught and conditioned to believe that all abuse happens as victims have reported it. The fact of the matter is, abuse is much more insidious.

Real Abuse

Child abuse is not evil because of the immediate effects on children. Many, many children have been abused and do not suffer the same as the victim stories we read about. It is evil because it changes the beliefs of those who are abused. Being abused even once, you think it is your fault, or that it is okay. You minimize the effect it has on you- I did, to the point where I saw nothing wrong with it and abused a child myself. The real evil is that it changes the child, and leads the child to believe things that are not true.

Any child can cope with the physical actions. No child is prepared for- or can easily solve- the numerous issues that are caused indirectly by the abuse. Children believe adults are to be trusted, so what the abuser did must have been okay. These beliefs can morph and twist into things that affect the child for life. I once told my victim that I could not control my actions. Not only was this a lie, it directly put the responsibility on him for the fact that it was occurring. I made him believe a lie about me, and about himself.

That is the true cost of child abuse. It is not PTSD. It is not how horrifically a child was raped, or how shocking what they went through is. It is how it is reacted to, and how it creeps into every area of your life and changes you- without even knowing why, how, or when it happened. I would give anything to be able to tell my victim, face-to-face, that what I did was completely my fault and correct the lies I made him believe.

Society's Reaction

The reaction we have to abuse- that it is terrible, must be stopped, and the disgust, terror, anger, and discomfort (tame word, I think, but it is the best I have) leads us to think that if we lock up, stop, monitor, or register the person responsible, or people responsible, we have fixed the problem. We can make it go away by arresting the person.

That is not how child sexual abuse works. It is not like theft where a strong punishment creates a deterrent. The problem does not go away because people are arrested and sent to court. The problem remains, because the problem is that the people who abuse children saw or had no other alternative. They had no support system to intervene, no therapist to talk about their thoughts and feelings, no tools to deal with whatever it was that led them to abuse a child. And this will continue so long as we react to it. By reacting to it as we are, we minimize the issues, and we minimize what is actually being done to the children.

The fact that this blog exists, and is written by someone who had sexual contact with a child, should speak volumes about how effective treatment is and break the lies you have been told about abuse and abusers. Sexual abuse is real. Abuse affects at least 20% of all children, and abuse is perpetrated by people who feel they have no other choices available to them. That makes me livid at the same time I feel overwhelming sadness, both for victims and for abusers. Knowing what I know now, and having little to no idea how to reach the right people to prevent abuse, feels so overwhelmingly powerless and depressing. I am only one voice, and I fear decades might pass before that voice is heard.

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