Trigger Warning: Sex Abuse. If you cannot handle this topic, please don’t read below….
The problem with sex abuse stats is that most of them go unreported. While it’s more common for adult women to report being raped, it’s much less common for adult men to report the same due to the pressure to “be a man”. Even among the women who report rape, they are probably still a silent majority — especially in this climate where the bulk of the reports coming out are centered around women allegedly lying about the abuse. In this climate, if you are a woman and speak out, you probably will not be believed and as a result, not get the help needed for recovery. Could this be by design? I don’t know.
“Most children are violated by someone they know—someone they trust. Like a family member, coach or babysitter. It’s usually not a stranger, but that could happen too. Most children feel that they are to blame or that no one will believe them or love them if they tell. But it is never the child’s fault.”
~Marilyn Van Derbur
While it’s more common a grown-up will report being raped, you never hear of children report being molested to the police —let alone within their own families. And the reason why should be pretty obvious. I have been researching and reading survivor stories for decades and the majority of people do not come out until decades later and this includes myself. It took me around 4 decades before I shared my own story. The majority of sexual abuse happens within the family and at home behind closed doors to both defenseless little boys and little girls. In the case of my own family, everyone had been molested as children by parents, brothers, and/or uncles and we all kept it a secret. We all lost our childhoods and we all had to grow up super fast. Some who told their story were shamed and/or punished and others like myself, kept the secret. I had been molested roughly from age 4-14 by both my father and my brother and my brother’s friends. A year later, I was molested by the priest at my church. The most a child will ever do is report the molestation to a parent, however, they are usually not believed. Sometimes children just know to keep it hush. In my case, my mother had always known but since she was also a molestation survivor, she blocked it out. My case had reminded her of her own. It was too painful for my mother to accept that I too was a victim. Most are like my mother and don’t want to admit just how prevalent sex abuse is.
“When letters from survivors began arriving in mailbags, I was astonished that the preponderance of letters were from men and women in their late 30’s and 40’s. It seemed as if, out of nowhere, childhood memories and feelings were intruding into, and often shutting down their adult lives. Why?
One reason is that as children, we were unable to talk about, rage about, cry years of tears about what happened. Because of our isolation and our secrets, we were never able to work through the emotional and physical tortures we experienced.”
~Marilyn Van Derbur
My point is that we don’t have the stats on childhood molestation; the numbers we do have cannot possibly be accurate. What child goes to the police?
Most of us know that when it comes to sexual abuse, we go into denial and pretend it didn’t happen be it to ourselves or those close to us who are brave enough to talk about it. Sexual abuse is THE hardest thing to talk about especially if we have repressed sexual abuse in our own pasts. Repression means our bodies and our souls remember the abuse, but we have blocked it out of our conscious mind to survive. To acknowledge that sex abuse happens more often then we might think means to acknowledge our own repressed sexual abuse and the skeletons in the closets of our own homes. So, we keep these little secrets locked far away from us until we are ready to face them.
“Then how do we stop domestic violence, sexual assaults and incest? How do we change something if we don’t even know that it is happening? We will never stop the sexual violations of children until society understands how pervasive and life changing it is. We can’t change what we don’t believe to be true and I never, ever want any child to go through the nights I did.” —Marilyn Van Derbur
Marilyn Van Derbur spent decades doing the research on it as an incest survivor herself and if you’re interested in the reality and how prevalent child molestation is and what you can do to help, please read the book “Miss America By Day”. You might even be inspired to face and heal your own abuse so that you can move past it.
This is a reality that is hard to face but the more we face it as a collective, the more we can do about it by believing children when they say they were molested. That’s where we can help. The hardest part of being molested is not being molested; the hardest part of it is not being believed, supported and helped after it happens. Those who weren’t believed or those who kept the secret carry the wound throughout their lives at the expense of their quality of life. They never heal (unless they confront it) and instead of healing, the wound might manifest as depression, anxiety, lack of motivation, the need to be constantly busy, obesity, addictions, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, rage, denial, numbness, and sometimes that means we victimize others. We can behave in very harmful ways when we forget our wounds.
“Most people are inherently good. Most people want to live a simple life, want to cause no trouble and wish to do no harm. The problem with most people being inherently good is that their goodness often blinds and prevents them from seeing how truly wicked evil can be.”
I highly recommend “Miss America By Day” by Marilyn Van Derbur to become enlightened on this topic so that you can start making a difference, even in a little way. If you have a son, daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, neighbor… any child that comes to you about what happened to them, now you’ll be able to be there for them if any only if you were there for yourself and have compassion for what happened to you. And maybe this book can help with that. I don’t call many people my hero, but Marilyn Van Derbur is mine.