This post is about sexual abuse
I read a letter from Dylan Farrow. In hers, I read something not unlike my own story. A child who was abused sexually. And I still to this day struggle with how to be heard on this subject. I was 12. I told my story to a police officer and one prosecutor. I was called to court years later and asked a few questions. I knew they didn't believe me. My abuser never did time. He abused others, too. None of us received justice. He was found not guilty.
I'm going to stop right here and qualify that my abuser was not my father nor anyone blood-related to me. And my family did believe me. Sadly, though, they didn't have the power to exact justice. And I didn't have the strength at the time to tell all of them. I was afraid.
But yeah, It happened to me. I won't re-hash the details. My former therapist of three years, Barb, is the keeper of that story and worked with me to heal my broken insides. Thank God for her. She listened. She believed me. She walked with me every week to the other-side of it all. She was there at the end of that journey, too, when I suddenly realized I no longer needed her to walk with me and went on alone. Ready to live. Ready for my life.
I am healed. I think. Healed in the sense that I can live each day moving forward. Healed in the way that I can think about this time in my life and not want to do drugs. Healed in the way that I can remember what happened to me and not be frozen in a prison inside my own body crying for help and freedom from the pain. Healed in that I have found happiness and love and peace despite once believing those things didn't happen for people like me. I am healed though I will always have scars.
Yet I'm still angry. I'm angry that so many children are unheard. So many of us never see the crimes against us prosecuted. So many of us never come to place where we can even tell our story. And when we do, so many of us are victimized again. And again. And again.
Because our memories are questioned. We are told that, because we are young, we will not be believed. We are told that because... it's true. I'm gonna say that again. We are told that because it is true. That, my friends is some fucked up shit. And no matter what you call it... rape culture, patriarchy, anti-child society, <insert buzz words here>...whatever you call it. It's not right. Whatever you call it...it is REAL. I know because I was there. And millions of others know because they are or were there, too. And guess what?
96% of children who disclose sexual abuse are telling the truth. [source]
Let that sink in for a minute.
Yet, we are told that "it was years ago" and that memory is "tricky" and "faulty" and something we cannot trust. We are told that it is not our fault that our brains could have tricked us into believing something that is untrue. Of course most never come right out and say they just don't believe you. They simply try and give you reasons why you shouldn't believe your own memories.
And that makes me wonder.
I wonder why it is so easy to doubt the words of a child. Why it is so simple to go straight to questioning the truthfulness of a child's bravery? Because parents are divorcing? Because custody is an issue? Well, DUH! OF COURSE IT IS! Who among us wouldn't leave someone abusing our child? Who among us wouldn't fight to the end to keep your child safe from their abuser? That's what parents do. They protect their children. They fight for their safety. I mean, right?!
But when a child reports sexual abuse, the story so often goes like this. The first response is silence. Fear. Horror. The mind begins considering the fallibility of the victim. Are they remembering it right? Are they being coached? Are they old enough to know what they are talking about? Proving it wrong would mean that this horrid crime wasn't committed and that makes everyone feel better. Well, most everyone. All of this before anyone ever calls the police. Rinse. Repeat.
Is a child's recollection any more fallible than an adults? Nope. They are more trust-worthy. They are MORE truthful about the big stuff. Yet still they are MORE vulnerable to the repercussions of speaking out. Their stakes are higher. And in the end, they are less protected.
We live in a world where hactavists are compelled to break the law to find justice for children. We live in a world where those same hactivists face more prison time than people who rape, torture and abuse children. We live in a world were football is more important than protecting children from rape. We live in a world were religion hides and protects pedophiles (I don't even have to link you to that one but I will). We live in a country where women and marginalized populations in our own military are not safe from their peers. We live in a world where even cops, the ones supposed to protect us, sexually assault people in their custody. We live in a world where books are written and published and for sale about how to groom a child and company's sell them until a group comes along and petitions them to stop.
We live in a world that doesn't want to look sexual crimes in the eye. And because of that it runs rampant. We cannot continue to hide our eyes from this. It's time to change laws. It's time to expose the culture of silence that allows perpetrators the comfort of knowing they are probably not going to get caught. It's time to start believing our children because they are telling the truth.
I am relieved that my voice is being added to a greater voice of women and men saying, "It happened to me". That my children will read this someday knowing that there are no ghosts haunting me. Not anymore. That this is not a secret that I had to keep. That they will always be believed. That there is no shame in being the victim of a crime. None. I am no longer afraid.
I am relieved to leave here on this blog that I am a survivor. That I fought hard to not drown in it despite never receiving justice. He did not ruin me. And it doesn't have to ruin you. Because, I promise, we are not ruined. We never were.
I read an open letter written by Dylan Farrow. Then I read the response from Woody Allen. I also read a lot of back forth in the week following those statements. So many people questioning. So many people dissecting. I read what seems like every available public piece information about the accusations. I have been a bit over-doing the reading about this, actually. So I need to leave this here.
In the end, what I want to say is this...
I believe you, Dylan. I believe you.
National Sexual Assault Hotline - 1.800.656.HOPE
Click here for international hotlines.