A few years ago, I had a friend whose wife and daughter had both been child sexual abuse victims. One day he asked me, “If child sexual abuse is so prevalent maybe there’s nothing wrong with it. Maybe it’s just a normal part of civilization.” I looked at him as if he was crazy.
Over the years, I’ve thought about people’s reactions. My son refuses to believe that my father raped me, forcing me into an incestuous relationship. I have a sister-in-law who said to me after I completed recovery, “Well you were only raped once weren’t you? “ She’ll never know how much her words hurt. Aside from the fact that I wasn’t raped only once, the thought that a grown woman, one who is normally kind and sensitive, would have an attitude like that made me wonder how many others have that attitude. I have a granddaughter who had such an aversion to the work I’d been doing with the Lamplighter Movement and the REPAIR program that she spent years pretending I was invisible. I was deeply hurt. I loved her so much and wanted to do something to repair (there’s that word again) our relationship. After she grew up and had a baby of her own things improved and she began at least responding when I spoke to her. Our relationship has caused me do to a lot of thinking about people’s aversion to child sexual abuse. I wish there were some way that people’s response would be the same as if you told them you had cancer or pneumonia. That elicits a response of concern and caring. Why is it that telling a friend you’ve been sexually abused causes a mouth to turn up as if you’d just said you pooped your pants? Why does it bring that coldness to the eye? That look of disgust? This aversion to child sexual abuse hinders me in my work.
I tried to place myself in their shoes. If my father had never sexually abused me and I’d had a happy childhood would I feel the same? If someone told me about being sexually abused what would be my response? Would I immediately have a feeling of repugnance and a desire to avoid or turn from my friend? This subject brings a vivid picture of some relative forcing a child to have sex. Yuk! What a terrible picture to put in someone’s head. It must have been their fault anyway. You’ve never heard of this before and you think your friend is probably making it all up. You immediately erase all the disgusting pictures from your mind, force a smile to your face and ask, “How’s the family doing?” Would this have been me?
I’ve lived in the Verde Valley for almost ten years. I now consider it my home. I don’t have a single close friend here. (although I have many in other states and other countries). I’ve met all of my neighbors, had them over for dinner, BBQs, and an annual Christmas Buffet. I never hear from them anymore. If I want to see them, I run in to them at the local pharmacy. I keep wondering if it’s because I told them about the work I’m doing. I’ve given talks to many local community organizations. The first time I did this was at a dinner. There were about 40 people there. After dinner was over I began my talk, Little by little every person in the room turned their head away. One man even stood up, turned his chair around so that his back was to me and sat down. He remained that way the entire time I was speaking. I was heart-broken.
I’ve heard that this area has a huge problem with child sexual abuse and domestic violence. They have a huge problem with meth as well so it’s understandable. I hold a Lamplighter Meeting once a month at the local library. Despite having announcements in local papers and leaving flyers at various places around town, almost never does anyone even show up. Most of the time it is just me reading my book and waiting hopefully. I’ve been doing this for years. In the beginning, I sent letters off to every church, every physician, and every therapist telling them about the meetings and about the Lamplighter Movement. There was no response. I have asked churches if they can put an announcement in their weekly bulletins. With the exception of the church I attend, there has been no response. I’ve met with the counselors at the local high school, told them about the REPAIR program and the Lamplighter Movement and asked if I could hold regular meetings in their Guidance Clinic. They had to ask the school board and the principle for permission. The answer was no
I refuse to give up. I see so clearly that my subject matter is so offensive that people want to bury their head in the sand, pretend I’ll go away, change the subject, and treat me as if I’m a disgusting person who is working in a field where no one wants help.
I don’t know what to do. I’m pleased that we have 95 chapters in 13 countries. I’m so proud of all of the people who are heading up chapters. But I know that some of them are facing the same problem I am. It’s so sad. With more than 65 million child sexual abuse survivors in the United States alone, you’d think people would want to do something about this problem. Don’t they understand that the children of an untreated child sexual abuse victim stands a five times greater chance of being abused themselves? Don’t they know that just by sitting down with a group of other survivors and telling your story will be your first step on the road to recovery? The statistics from other countries, especially Pakistan and India would unnerve you. Please, try to rethink this problem. Picture it as someone vulnerable who is attacked viciously, someone whose entire life is now in shambles, someone who needs you to reach out and help. Just being sympathetic about the problem would be a huge step in the right direction.