With childhood sexual abuse a hot topic in the media right now, I’ve seen numerous news stories, and opinion pieces all over the internet. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of them as well. I will not be adding to those voices more than I already have. There’s enough of that out there. I do, however, want to make a couple of suggestions to the media, to survivors and supporters, to those who do feel the need to add their voices to the current news cycle.
First, and foremost, can we stop competing with each other to describe sexual abuse in the worst possible terms? Childhood sexual abuse is horrible. No one in their right mind is arguing against that. On the other hand, child victims and adult survivors do not need to constantly be told that they will never recover from this, that their lives are irrevocably ruined, that there fate is worse than death, etc. Statements like “sexual abuse is worse than murder”, do not send a hopeful message to the survivors, do they?
How about, instead, we state simply that sexual abuse is bad, that what happened to them will have long term affects, and how the survivors need our support to overcome what has happened and live better, fuller, adult lives? How about realizing that survivors are already dealing with more stigma than you can imagine every single day, and try our hardest to not add to it?
Secondly, can we, as survivors, please stop wishing for prison rape? We sure do like to stand up on our soapbox and talk about how rape is never funny, it’s never justified, and can never be accepted, yet send someone to prison for sexual abuse, child pornography, soliciting, and boy we can’t wait to jump in with gleeful comments about how much the prison population is going to show them what’s it’s like! If you consider yourself an advocate for rape and/or sexual abuse victims, and wish for some people to actually be raped, do I even need to tell you how much of a hypocrite you are? How much damage you are doing to your own cause?
Again, the message you’re sending is actually that rape and sexual abuse aren’t justified, unless it’s someone you decide actually does deserve it.
Lastly, while we’re on the subject of how we discuss survivors, and abusers, can we please have a rational discussion about how best to protect children? One that does not include name calling, or worse yet, assuming anyone who disagrees with the orthodoxy of rape/sexual abuse/ domestic violence advocates is actually an abuser in hiding, or someone who wants to see people abused? Because I don’t see a lot of that. The fact is, what we’ve been doing, obviously isn’t working all that well. How about if we allow people to actually voice some disagreement about what we are doing, what we should be doing, and what we might want to consider, instead of shouting them down at every chance? The truth is, we don’t have unlimited time, money, or other resources to put all children in a 24 hour, constantly guarded, protective bubble to keep them from being abused. Even if we could, it might not be a great way to raise children anyway. Can I say that without being accused of not wanting to protect children? I’m not all that sure that I can, and while we have emotional outbursts about it, more children are being abused. They deserve better. They deserve our best ideas, our best minds, our best attempts at finding solutions. We’re not going to get there if we’re walking around afraid to disagree with each other.