Since writing this I have become involved in many conversations re an interview on you tube about the age of consent, I thought it relevant to repost this blog.
When we stop listening to children, we stop their belief in us. If we listen and don’t believe we do the same. Young children mostly say it as it is. They don’t yet know any reason to lie or make things up. We teach them these things. We may not mean to but we do. So if a child says he or she is being hurt by someone, that someone is making her scared or uncomfortable, we should listen. Believe, make sure she is safe and then act. This is in my opinion, a fundamental of being a parent and adult. Children will tell us the truth, given the chance and so we should trust them and make sure they are safe while we look into whatever the problem might be.
When as a child I told and was not listened to and certainly not believed, I felt hurt beyond comprehension. I also felt betrayed. I needed help to stop the nasties that were happening to me and to be kept safe. Along with the ongoing sexual abuse I was suffering, I now had a new abuse to cope with. The neglect, betrayal and hurt, from someone who should have protected me.
The risks of not believing are vast. Whatever the abuse, the fear etc. that was told, it would now continue. Therefore the harm and long term damage will be much worse. Maybe, the abuser, getting away with his offence, will harm others.
As a Psychotherapist, I can only work with what a client tells me. I can only trust that they will be truthful. It may not start off this way but very soon, gaining the client’s trust and allowing them to tell me what is wrong, I am told how it really is, what really was happening to bring them to me. When someone discloses abuse, I am not bound to tell the police but often, after checking their support network, I will empower them to go to the authorities. However, if I am told of harm to a child, I have to believe what I am told and inform the police. Yes this is risky but my code of Ethics make it so that telling is compulsory and I wouldn’t risk not telling. Also, as a woman, I would always adhere to caution and tell.
The second part of my blog today is trial by media.
Many victims or survivors of CSA are asked, ‘Why have you left it until now? Why haven’t you told before?’ Often, like me, they have told before. They told someone and were not believed. If it was a relative, in my case, the woman they called my mother, not to be believed by someone who should have protected you, why would you tell anyone else? Some, again like with me, the abuser would make threats; life is horrid already but these threats could be, to make life even more unbearable. So, telling would bring, more pain and horror, disbelief and nothing would get better. Most importantly, if you were a child at the time the abuse began, how hard that is! Why would you tell? It was never, when I was young, a child’s world. An adult’s word was always believed over a child, or so it seemed. So you didn’t tell.
Life changes, people are now listening, things happen that make it possible for the abused to step forward, with the support they need, and tell their story. Today people are listening, victims are at last being heard. Victims of abuse so often go undetected, as do the crimes against them, for many years and I am sure some never come forward.
Victims are also questioned as to how they can remember details of the abuse? My question is, how could I forget?? I tried, believe me I tried. Faces, sounds, smells and actions are all etched on our minds forever. These acts of abuse are often carried out with force, painful, traumatic and as such, are written in your memory indelibly. Sometimes there is physical damage and scarring, always there is emotional damage and life long memory.
In the news for the past couple of years, are stories of horrific abuse by all kinds of people, in all kinds of places in society. So called celebrities, politicians, doctors and priests to name a few. Their lives are scrutinized, uncovered and laid bare by journalists. Some will say, if you live in the public eye, you must expect this. But along with all of these ‘accused’ are the victims whose lives are also laid bare. They certainly do not deserve this.
To talk to anyone, whether as a child or an adult, of the sexual abuse you have suffered is traumatic. To tell of your innocence being stolen, of the physical and psychological pain you have suffered at the time of the acts against you, is so hard and then again when you have told, sometimes this re-awakens the trauma. Revisiting those horrific times to tell others is the hardest thing ever. This trial of the victims in my mind, is almost as bad as being abused all over again. Not being believed, is like being abused all over again. It is risky telling anyone but it is also very brave.
It is very intimate and personal to tell of such evil events in your life. To tell anyone is scary. To not be listened to is frustrating. To not be believed is insulting. To be judged by the media is beyond hurtful and unfair, it is just wrong!
It’s time victims of child sexual abuse were believed, not accused of making it all up. They are not always known by name, but everything that is written in the media, bit by bit must take off, layer by layer and it is not always possible for the victim in these cases to remain anonymous. Then the trials begin. I have read it all, on social media, Twitter etc. ’Why didn’t they tell before? Why wait until now? How do they remember every detail etc.? It is sometimes possible to identify both the victim and abuser by innuendo I would think. I am not in favour of anybody being tried by the media, the accused or the victim. Isn’t it time that we protect those brave souls who have come forward and told of their ordeals? If we can’t keep the names of the accused out of the news, I wish we could until they are found guilty or not, let us at least stop the trial by media of the people who already have suffered beyond belief. Even if they are not named, they read what is written by them, listen to interviews of the sceptics and non believers and this all hurt beyond measure.
One of the things, something I have written in a previous blog, that prevents some people coming forward are cases where police personnel did not believe a person who cries rape or sexual assault, because perhaps they have been involved with someone who lied, made the story up.
When I was younger, struggling with the effects and trauma of the abuse I suffered, I would never have believed that anyone would make up such evil stories. That no one would claim to have been sexually abused or raped when it wasn’t true. I still can’t comprehend what makes someone do this. Why would someone tell of this horrendous crime, knowing they will be questioned in depth, have to give details etc when they are not telling the truth. When nothing happened? Victims of CSA are brave, strong, stronger that they would ever have believed, telling what happened takes all of this and every ounce of the truth. I never believed someone would lie about such horrors. Sadly since 2012, I know for a fact that it happens. I was on the listening side of such saga of horrendous depravity and lies that a young woman was telling me, over and over for 6 long months, that she had suffered. None of it was true. Not only is this worrying that anyone can claim to have suffered in this way, but it makes me wonder where these thoughts will stop. Maybe some people who tell these evil, horrendous lies, might go on to act them out. Whatever the reason, it is so wrong and can make the genuine victims of such crimes, an easy target for those in authority to doubt their stories. To pretend these horrendous crimes happened to you, belittles real victims and makes the authorities doubt those who come forward..
In my mind it is time to stop the trial by media. Stop the discussions, the stories, the chasing of both victim and the accused until such time as they are found guilty or not. I have also witnessed the damage done to innocent people accused of sexual abuse, they also do not deserve this.
In my ideal world, there would of course be no sexual abusers or any kind of abuser. But this isn’t my ideal world. Telling the truth about your childhood, brings you pain, brings you enemies and brings you sometimes unwanted publicity. We all know that writers risk this when they tell their stories. I wasn’t allowed to put my name to my story of Childhood Sexual Abuse. I had wanted to but wasn’t allowed. This was to protect me and others in my story. My family and close friends know, I had to tell anyone in my books and I was lucky. I was believed and there were few comebacks. Would I tell again, under my real name? Yes of course I would. As long as we tell it as it was, tell the truth we must share the things that happened to us with to make other sufferers feel less alone. But we also need protection from the media, at least until any criminal case is concluded. We also need those in positions of authority to be fair and just and not belittle, insult or bad mouth those if us who come forward and tell our stories.Then it won’t be trial by media but judged in a court of law and the guilty will pay for their crimes.
Thank you for reading.