In reading today’s news and listening to my favorite newscasters it’s easy to see that two subjects are dominating the news, the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, especially in Ireland and President Obama’s victory in the subject of health care. One is positive and exciting (if you are a Democrat) the other is heart wrenching. The two are related in a way rarely thought of.
The ACE (Adverse Childhood Environment) Study (http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/ace/) initiated by Dr. Vincent Felitti, the former Director of Preventive Medicine at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, CA documents the conversion of traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life. Childhood sexual abuse incorporates emotional, physical, spiritual and mental abuse into one large culprit. As an incest survivor I should know. Having successfully healed myself through a program called REPAIR Your Life (which I spent three years writing after five years of recovery) I can attest to the agonizing path that incest and child sexual abuse puts you on.
If President Obama’s victory translates into affordable health care for all it is inevitable that a large percentage of the population will have arrived at their health status as a result of child abuse. 60 million people in America alone are childhood sexual abuse victims. The first message a child who is beaten (or sexually abused) receives is “I am not okay”. With that simple message they begin their path in life. That journey will lack the tools required for a healthy and fulfilling life, a life that will have a better chance of keeping their bodies free from disease such as obesity, cancer, cardiac problems, COPD, and a multitude of others. That child will have a greater chance of suicide attempts, psychiatric problems, nervous breakdowns, mental disorders, poor choice in marriage partners, low self esteem and an inability to make healthy choices in large areas of their lives. The most frightening statistic of all is that children of an untreated childhood sexual abuse victim stand a five times greater chance of being sexually molested themselves.
What good is affordable health care if we do not treat the source? Children who have a happy childhood free from any kind of abuse grow up to be responsible, mature and most importantly, healthy adults. Children of child abuse do not. These are our leaders of tomorrow. These are our military, our political office holders, our clergy, our educators and especially our parents.
My best friend recently died from cancer. Her family history shows so clearly the multi-generational, devastating path that child sexual abuse takes. Sexually abused as a child by her grandfather, she was told to ignore it; he’s just a dirty old man. She had five siblings. So far three of those siblings died of cancer and another had breast cancer a few years ago. The mother of these siblings died of cancer and her four sisters all either had cancer or died of it. The mother of these five sisters died of cancer. That mother was married to the “dirty old man”, the sexual predator who was responsible for the devastating health problems of three generations.
We need to treat the source. Without that the scandals in the Catholic Church will grow. Without that, the health problems in the United States will continue to escalate. Affordable health care will do little to help those whose futures were already predicted by child abuse.
What are we going to do? When are we going to get serious about realizing that childhood sexual abuse must be dragged kicking and screaming out into the open? If we can talk openly about alcoholism, and we do, then we can talk openly about childhood sexual abuse. It was not our fault.