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To the editor,
The article “History of Abuse” by William K. [May 21] touched on a topic usually overlooked or misunderstood by the public, especially the media. I was impressed with the honesty of the author and also the Reader for placing such an important issue on the front page. Current statistics suggest that one in seven boys and one in three girls are molested as children.
I too was molested, in this case by a trusted uncle of my mother. They were so close she called him “Uncle Daddy.” The time he spent baby-sitting my younger sister and me, the money he gave us for birthdays and good grades were not the generous, loving actions of a doting uncle but a plot to endear him to the family and allow him access to us. I don’t mean to suggest that every family friend is a predator, but a little paranoia, and a bit more attention to who is with our children, would be a major step toward protecting them.
The next step is to start believing our children when they finally tell. In this regard, I was fortunate. At 21, when I finally told my mother, she immediately believed us and took action. I cannot credit this one response by this one person enough. From it a ray of trust could brighten my dark, faithless inner world, where I believed every person I loved would hurt me. With support from my mother and my younger sister, I could finally begin to recover from the trauma that haunted my childhood from ages 6 to 15.
Last, I would like to mention the importance of recognizing the indirect signs a child will give when they are too afraid or confused to come forward. William K. told of an entire month when he refused to speak. This was certainly noticed by teachers and relatives, but they were unable to address his silence as a trauma response, probably because it was never even considered.
I now see many behaviors from my childhood and adolescence as having stemmed from my abuse. The withdrawal and isolation William K. lamented was also my experience, and I remember books as my best friends. However, when I reached dating age my withdrawal was replaced with an attention-seeking, oversexualized behavior that placed me repeatedly in the familiar role of victim. I can’t help feeling bitter that, when I strangely begged at age 12 to move away from the only friends I had at the only school I had ever attended, no one asked what I was running from. And when I began reading trashy romance novels with very descriptive sexual scenes at age ten, no one seemed to notice or care why these stories interested me.
My point here is that many times the “unexplainable” behaviors of children are actually quite clear when the issue of abuse is considered. To overlook these hints puts the child at further risk of abuse and stunts their interpersonal and intrapsychic development. I urge everyone to avoid the ostrich syndrome and take note of the Reader and William K., who are thankfully modeling a more honest approach to abuse issues. Silence is the greatest ally of abusers because it forces children to blame themselves and repress memories of the unvalidated horrors they experienced and teaches mothers to call their children liars. Only when we act as a community to address the evil and hear the victims will we prevent future abuse.