I'm certain you heard of the recent meeting in Paris where the world came together in concern about climate change. I want us to consider creating a different climate change. The climate around victims of sex abuse. I remain stunned that we continue to allow a climate of silence, denial, disbelief and blaming to be perpetrated around a victim of sex abuse. That climate is one we should be just as concerned about!
If, and it is a big if, a child is strong enough to tell someone about what is happening, he or she is likely to hear:
“Are you sure about that, he could get in lots of trouble when you say that.”
“He wouldn’t do that. You’re making it up.”
“Make him stop.”
“Don’t ever say that again.”
“I told you not to be around him.”
Let’s demand that this climate shift! Push past your own disbelief and need to “not know” that someone around you could absolutely molest a child. Believe the child, and take action. Report it, protect the child, and find a safe person for both you and your child to talk with.
I also have been taking a really hard look at another climate around victims of sex abuse.
Recently I sat in a meeting of mental health professionals and heard someone remark, “Oh my, if that question is asked in a survey, I hope they are sensitive to triggering a victim of sex abuse.” At first thought, I said to myself, ‘good, we are making progress in being trauma informed.’
However, later upon further reflection, I wondered if we have perpetrated a climate of symptom management rather than a climate that says, “You can overcome.” We give more credence to the impact of trauma, i.e. triggers, poor self esteem, flashbacks, etc. than to the truth of the internal resources and capabilities people have to overcome. Truly victims are triggered all the time. We need to shift to empowering them to overcome the triggers, and not just manage them.
Can we strike the balance between understanding what trauma does to a person, and holding an expectation that they can overcome it?
Can we attack the climate of silence, denial and blame?
I'm counting on it! It is time!