This is not going to be one of my nicer posts, and some of you may get your feelings hurt, but it’s something that I see quite frequently in the survivor, and child advocate, communities that I have a real problem with.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that phrases like these are a way to draw attention to the very significant problem that child abuse, specifically sexual abuse, is. I’m sure that most of the people who make this claim are well-intentioned, seeking only to describe just how devastating it can be for a child to be sexually assaulted, but I would also like these folks to think a little bit more about what they say.
What’s the claim that I’m talking about? There are some slightly different connotations, but the gist of it is that child sexual abuse is a crime worse than even murder because of the damage it does to a child that lasts long into adulthood, possibly even affecting the next generation.
Here’s my problem with it. Murder is murder. If you kill someone, they are not going to recover from that. They will never experience joy, give of themselves, raise a child, or experience any of the millions of other positive things that life can bring. They are dead, their life is over. That’s all she wrote!
When we spend a lot of time talking about how child sexual abuse is even worse, what message are we sending survivors? That they are damaged beyond all hope of repair, or that what happened to them would be less damaging if they had been murdered instead of surviving? That their lives are going to be so full of pain and despair that they would, in fact, be better off dead? That the world, including the very community that offers support to them, will always think of them as damaged, as “worse off than murder victims”? What kind of hope does that offer survivors?
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse myself, I refuse to send that message to any survivor. Every single one of you have the strength, the courage and the ability to overcome what happened, and should never give up hope. The sexual abuse of children is a horrific crime, and can do a great deal of damage to the childhood of it’s victims, but so long as we survive, and continue to breath, there is hope that our futures will be brighter than our pasts. Isn’t that the message we really want survivors to hear?