Why is it that in society, there is this tendency to blame the victim? Most of us deny that we do this; we in fact, claim to abhor this mentality and on the surface, cast nothing but hatred towards the perpetrators of heinous crimes like sexual assault, or physical or sexual abuse.
Yet today, in the Star Phoenix, a letter was published by a woman whose name I won’t mention out of fear of glorifying or giving publicity to her revolting slander, stating that she’s had “enough” of Theo Fleury and Todd Holt discussing their experiences with Child Sexual Abuse and outright blaming them for withstanding sexual abuse to further their NHL career potential.
Here’s something this woman needs to understand (as many adults do and not just in a situation like this): There is a child’s perspective, then an adult’s perspective.
One time, someone asked me: “Why did you keep returning to your abuser’s home?” It’s an honest and inquisitive question asked to me by someone who is very wise and inquiring. The answer is, Because I was rewarded for it. I was given favours and a trusting, fun place to go. I was given a secret to keep with an adult I trusted. I was able to do things I wasn’t able to do at home like eat home-baked treats and homemade jam and play with furry, friendly pets. Because as children, we are instructed to listen to and respect our elders. I was taught in elementary school, “If someone is doing something that makes you uncomfortable, tell a trusted adult.” The problem with generic provision of information like that is, 99% of the time child abusers are “trusted adults”. Not only that, but they have close access to the kids they abuse. They’re in a position of power, or a position of providing something other adults in that child’s life cannot provide. Kids don’t always have the capacity to pick and choose which adults are more “trused” than others.
It is for this reason I find it incredibly – ‘presumptuous’ isn’t even a strong enough word; more like ‘despicably blunt, crass and insensitive’ – of this woman who wrote such a letter from the very one-sided perspective of an adult who has probably never even been in this situation and now, never will, to say her opinions from the side of an adult who can separate a red flag from a red carpet and who can discern between someone who is trying to take advantage of an unsuspecting, trusting person and someone who has the best intentions.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry that Child Sexual Abuse makes so many adults uncomfortable to the point where they make assumptions that young children who are not in the position to make “good” decisions are ‘putting up’ with abusive behaviour from adults in order to get ahead. I’m sorry that the heinous, terrible acts of an adult in the position of power over two young boys is off the hook just because they don’t like hearing about his crimes. It’s another situation where the child’s side of the story, or the former child’s side of the story, the voice they’ve been longing to find, has been silenced and dismissed, once again.
Did you know that a lot of kids don’t tell people they’ve been abused because they perceive that no one will believe them? Why would they think that? Because of people like this abhorrent woman.
The truth is, blaming the victim – especially in the case of Child Sexual Abuse – comes as naturally to people like the writer of this letter, as breathing. And why? Because it’s disheartening to read ‘bad news’ all the time; because someone once told her “It takes two to make a fight” and it’s assumed that there’s a provoker and a provoked in every situation? Because society teaches us through varying types of osmosis including films, biblical stories, imagery, comic books, and playground politics demonstrate us that when people are punished… they probably deserve it.
If you’ve never been an abuse survivor it’s difficult to understand first of all, the pain and suffering that come with that; the looking back at that moment and wondering, ‘What may have happened if I wasn’t abused?’ or ‘What would I be like if my childhood hadn’t been stolen from me that way?’ It’s hard to understand living in silence and never being able to explain to people – your partners, your family, your friends, colleagues and acquaintances, that you’re a silenced person who has dealt with unspeakable acts of mistrust and abuse from adults you thought you were supposed to trust; things that are easy and commonplace for others make you feel like a pariah when you’re confronted with them. That the only way to free yourself is to stand up and find your own voice but that people like this “person” dismissing the need to speak out because she finds it infuriating, disregards peoples’ need to speak to their abusers and make a stand against the injustices they’ve faced.
I’m sickened today. I apologize for the rant, but I am disgusted that amidst all of this talk of Child Sexual Abuse, that has been brought to the forefront of peoples’ minds by a man who is a PUBLIC FIGURE and can influence others and tell his story to a wide audience, there are still people who wish to disregard these untold stories because it is inconvenient for them to hear. To the woman that wrote this article: I hope that you’ve been disgraced by the masses following your obscene letter, you feel even an OUNCE of the disgrace, shame and persecution that survivors of child abuse face every single day.