Well-publicized survivor of child sexual abuse Theo Fleury and a team of caring individuals are walking from Toronto to Ottawa to raise awareness for better protection for other survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I can’t tell you what this movement means to me, despite that I cannot participate because I will be exercising my own right as a free woman – as a ‘survivor’ myself – at the Sasquatch festival at the gorge in Washington.
What Fleury is doing is simply astounding; he has helped others like himself find comfort, find closure, find a voice, and find a way out of their pain and misery by helping as best they can to raise awareness, to be pre-emptive for future generations, in hopes that sexual abuse will by then, be eradicated.
Why hasn’t it already been eradicated? As long as there are people – for whatever reason, and the reasons are beyond me – there will be pedophiles, there will be child predators, there will be men trolling the internet, accosting and tricking their neighbour children, there will be coaches and priests and relatives with something inherently broken and evil in their souls that forces them for inexplicable reasons to have this need to seize sexual power over an innocent, un-developed child. But in my mind, and evidently in Fleury’s as well – the key to ending this horror is disclosure. And the way to open the doors for full disclosure is to eliminate the shame and taboo around child sexual abuse.
I walk around and sometimes wonder, how many people around me are harbouring this secret? How many of them have told? How many of them kept it a secret their whole lives – maybe from everyone they know – but suffer inwardly – are triggered by every day occurrences, things that people who have not fought this ongoing, lifetime battle take for granted that they don’t have to feel the shame and terrible toll of so many aspects of life that are discoloured by abuse. One thing I’ve learned in the course of my young life is, there are more ‘survivors’ than you think. I had a friend tell me once that when she told her story, she had several people disclose to her after that they were there too, at the hands of their abuser when they were too young to comprehend or understand the terror that they were experiencing in that moment, and what they were in for long after the fact.
It takes a terrible amount of courage to come forward; moreso than people who have never had to make such a large, burdening, shameful confession could ever even hope to understand. To tell is an admission of shame; to tell is to fear subjugation, excommunication, or worse: that you won’t be believed. To tell is to admit you put yourself in danger, that you allowed someone to make you feel special and wonderful in this secretive adult way the good adults in your life would disapprove of. To tell is to say, I’m broken. I’m dirty. I’m sick. I’m wrong. I’m damaged, and my body is damaged. And yet, the longer this secret is left behind, the harder it is to come forward. At that point though, it’s not because you’re little and afraid anymore; it’s because you’ve been trained for so long to lie, to not fully disclose who you are and where you came from and about this terrible secret that is hidden deeply in your back pocket, that it becomes second nature and you learn to stop trusting people.
What Fleury is doing, is taking that shame and turning it into something victorious; he is using his pain and his anger and taking action, not allowing tis abuser to win but rather, to set an example and be the person who shelves his shame and TELLS people that there are abusers and that the best way to push them down is by using your words. It is a simple message but one that is more valuable than almost any powerful message today.