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Why We Should Care

Oct 09, 2018

2018 10 BlogThese past two weeks have been very difficult for many survivors of sexual abuse. In some ways, witnessing Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony on September 27 was a recitation of every survivor’s own experience. What followed her testimony was the embodiment of every survivor’s nightmare.

It seems that we will never definitively know the veracity of Dr. Ford’s testimony. As is usual in cases of sexual abuse, in adulthood or especially in childhood, there is rarely conclusive proof. Among the myriad of reasons for this, suffice it to say that sexual abuse is rarely a public act. The perpetration of sexual abuse occurs most often when the victim is unsuspecting, unprotected, and alone.

For what it’s worth, there is little doubt in the hearts and minds of most survivors about the credibility of Dr. Ford’s courageous testimony. What every survivor knows, without any doubt, is the choked back tears, the quiet faltering voice, the desperate wish to keep silent, the dread of speaking up, and the paralyzing fear of not being believed. Small wonder that most victims of sexual abuse, at any age, remain silent. Why take the risk to share the vulnerability and humiliation of abuse only to be re-victimized through ridicule, skepticism and outright denial?

Yet without the painful and uncomfortable truth of sexual abuse coming to light, how will we come to understand the reality of the prevalence of sexual abuse? How will be know how to keep children safe? It is just so easy to look away and so hard to take in this very raw truth. Our reflexive need to deny the distressing image of a child being molested by an adult or a young woman being held down and raped keeps us insulated from a reality that affects tens of thousands of individuals (women and men) every year. It is hard to believe what we won’t see.

As long as we choose to remain blind and deaf to the reality that is all around us, we will continue to give the signal to survivors that it is not safe to speak up. Our blindness ensures that those who have been sexually victimized will continue to hide their secret, carry their deep fear and shame, and never take the risk to speak their truth. Until we are willing to open our eyes and our hearts to  every survivor, we will all continue to bear the loss.

In my corner of the world, the quiet therapy rooms where the pain and the sorrow of survivors matters deeply, the past two weeks have been unbearable. Out there on the main stage of our world, we watched as one courageous woman reluctantly stepped forward to speak her truth.  We watched with aching hearts the turn of events as her truth was denied and our worst fears were confirmed.

It is my deepest wish that this painful journey is not in vain. That somehow, when the dust settles, there will be an opening for us to begin to hear and begin to see that the heartache that comes from the worst kind of inhumanity to another matters deeply.  That the suffering of each and every individual whose body has been violated in the most intimate way possible will not be in vain. Let us begin in this very moment to say to every man and every woman who knows the pain of sexual abuse, I believe you!

- Janice Palm, MA, LMHC, Executive Director



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