An Open Letter from a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse
Sometimes you have to have experienced something to know on a visceral and unquestioning level that it is wrong. Others who haven’t experienced it may never see or understand why it’s not okay to make jokes about it, make light of it, or to dismiss someone in pain because of it.
The shock of that statement is that some of the things that can be listed under it are crimes like bullying, assault and battery, abuse, suicide, and even horrifying crimes like rape and murder. Those who object to the jokes and slights are often told “It’s just a joke”, or “Lighten up, crybaby.” These things are not a joke; and if they ever happen to you, or somebody you love, they won’t be a joke to you anymore, either.
For a few things, the wrong is not only obvious, it requires no thought to know what you would do if you encountered it. Some of us could even imagine ourselves going a bit crazy, taking the law into our own hands in a moment of red-haze blindness that the lawyers call a “crime of passion”. One of those things for most of us (but not all of us, shamefully) is the crime of child rape.
What would you do if you entered the athletics department showers of a prominent university and saw a ten-year-old boy being anally raped by a grown man? Would you give a damn that the pedophile criminal was a talented assistant coach? As a grown adult, would you quietly slip away, do nothing, leave that boy to be raped and later go tell your father what you saw and wait for him to tell you that you have to call the police? Then, let’s suppose, the higher and higher levels of authority at the university engaged in a cover-up to save, not the child victims, but the reputation of the school.
This is what happened at Penn State University. What did they do? They ousted the pedophile, but didn’t stop him from continuing to bring young boys to the locker room showers. When it finally blew up in their faces, the school fired their beloved championship winning coach because he may have known about it and didn’t do enough to stop it. Others were fired too, and when the pedophile finally goes to trial, more may not only lose their jobs, but they may go to prison with him. If a judge and jury find that any of these people are guilty of knowing about it and not stopping it, I hope they all go to prison; and if they learn there what it’s like to be anally raped, I probably won’t shed many tears for them.
In Mexico, where the minimum age of consent is TWELVE years old, a ten-year-old girl was repeatedly raped by her step-father until she got pregnant. At age eleven, she has now given birth, because the abortion laws in Mexico are just as screwed up as some of them in a few of our United States are. Will the step-father be arrested and brought to trial for raping a child? Don’t hold your breath.
If I were that adult male who witnessed a child being raped by a man in the Penn State showers, I’d have run in there, stopped it, and tried to restrain myself from killing the sick monster outright. I’d have probably called 911 with my boot on the back of his neck while trying to tell the child he was safe now. How many of you would do the same?
Don’t get me started on the idiocy that followed when the coach who knew about it was fired. Students starting a riot to defend a man who didn’t do everything in his power to prevent more child rapes disgusts me so badly that it has made me physically sick. I’ve been told that the riot wasn’t about defending a child rapist, but the students were too busy with their riot to explain that to the world, and now Penn State is being trashed and ridiculed globally as “the university where they are pro-child rape in the name of football championships”. If they want to try to reverse this ugly stigma on their university and student body, many more students, staff, players, etc. need to come forth and make statements that they are horrified at the crimes committed on their campus. As far as their beloved coach is concerned, I’ll wait for a court to decide his fate, as the idiot rioters should have done.
Here’s another example for you:
What would you do if you were an adult and you were checking the meter at the side of a house when you heard what sounded like a child scream and cry? You can’t resist a peek in a window and you’re shocked to see a man standing in a bedroom doorway who is watching another man on a bed anally rape a boy of about eight years old. What would you do? In this case, you have no idea if the people in the house might shoot you dead, but you could at least call 911, right? I hope you would. You might duck out of sight, maybe stand there, frozen, and listen to that boy cry. Hear him beg and scream. What would you do?
I can’t tell you what I would do in this example, because I was that boy. I can tell you that the man didn’t stop, and the man watching had let him rape his own son. I don’t know what the power company worker did, but I do know two things: he left, and he never called 911. How do I know he was there? I saw him there. I saw him and I thought he would help me. He didn’t. He just walked away.
I had a mother who also abused me sexually. I had teachers and neighbors who saw bruises, saw my scars, never wondered how I lost sight in my left eye at age sixteen. I was taught since the age of three to never tell. I was told all families were like this, all children owed sex to their parents. By the age of ten, I didn’t even question it anymore. I’d see a boy at school with a broken arm (from falling out of a tree) and I assumed he had disobeyed his father. There was nobody to tell because they were all too busy bullying the weird boy, the freak with the ugly scars on his face; the freak who could barely speak because his tongue had been cut with a kitchen knife. Only a few teachers asked how I got my facial scars, my speech impediment; but I was taught to lie. I told them it was a car accident, and having been given an excuse, a reason to hang their suspicions and fears on, they believed it and never asked again.
No other reality was introduced to me until I had become a wild creature, a child as likely to bite you as look at you. They called me a “discipline case” and now and then they’d suspend me, giving me more time at home to be abused in. My first friend in junior high who didn’t care how crazy I was and refused to go away, he slowly gained my trust. I wouldn’t tell him my dark secret, but he told me about his life, his loving family, and it shocked me. It took time to realize I’d been lied to, my whole life. Bullies continued to attack, and I learned to attack them, too. That is something we all must think about – sometimes those who bully are secretly being abused and their violent aggression is a form of acting out their pain, waving a red flag that few see because they only see the attacks on weaker peers. I wonder how many bullies have been asked “How are things at home, is anybody hurting you?” Just like parents should ask their kids the same thing: “Is anybody hurting you?” Such a simple thing, yet it seems so hard for some people to do.
I believe I survived because I thought the abuse in my home was how the world was. That sounds strange, but it’s true. Some victims of child sexual abuse have good childhoods until that one monster enters their lives. The shock of that abuse can numb a child, shatter them, until they either can’t see the point of living anymore, or they manage to survive only to still feel broken, dirty, unclean, destroyed, as adults. A few get the help they need right away, and they are able to grow up and live more normal lives as adult survivors. For me, a boy who didn’t get help until he was grown up, the belief that the abuse was just how the world was probably saved my life; it was “normal”. I never ran away, because my mother would be beaten for it. She never ran away with me because she was abused as a little girl and knew no different life either.
Yet in spite of that, I’ve attempted suicide many times as a child and a teen, and sometimes, also burdened with the mental illness of bipolar, I’ve had suicidal thoughts as an adult. I’m alive today because I got help. I found people to make a loving and safe (if unconventional) family with. I got professional help from a brilliant therapist, and I’ve been seeing her almost every Friday for the last eight or so years now. I’ve gathered friends who love and accept me as I am and who help me when I’m overwhelmed by my illness and my past of abuse. These are the things all survivors of abuse of any kind need to stay alive.
As an adult in my present circumstances, I try to have the courage to share my poetry and essays about my abuse in the hope that it might help another survivor, inspire somebody being abused to speak out, or to make others aware of this terrible crime. So many survivors find it so hard to talk about their abuse and others never do and feel that they can’t. The first step to healing yourself is to tell somebody, anybody, that you are being abused, or that you were abused as a child. Until you hear yourself speak it out loud, silence is allowed to defeat you, to cage you and maybe destroy you.
Most days I try to be kind, friendly, maybe even attempt to be funny. I like to do this, because I know what suffering is and I like to help others to cheer up, feel better, if they are having an awful day. I’m a quirky oddball weirdo, a scarred man who will never see the world quite like others do because of what I’ve survived. My abuse has altered me in many ways, but I’ve never repeated the terrible cycle of abuse. I’m a father of four beautiful children, and none of them will ever be treated as I was. They are my best reason for living now, my main reason for fighting to heal myself, for striving to take that next breath on the worst days. Yet I never forget the abuse I survived, I cannot forget it. I want to live, I struggle to heal, but I cannot forget. I cannot stand idly when I see another being abused. I cannot walk away. I cannot keep silent.
Child sexual abuse is all around you, whether you choose to see it or not. It could even be in your own home, your school, or in your town. If you know or know of somebody of any age that you suspect might be abused, by a parent, a bully, a spouse, an authority figure… don’t just turn away. If they give a reason for that black eye and it seems suspicious, keep trying to reach out. Tell somebody. If you are being abused by any person in any way, tell somebody. Silence is the enemy. The choice to do nothing is a conscious choice, and it can be a contagious disease; one that destroys and sometimes ends lives.
Don’t be the one that just walks away. Please don’t.
~ ~ ~
© W.R.R. 11/11/2011
For all those who suffer or have survived abuse, and for the people who suffer because they love them.