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|10-20-2003, 10:21 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Why Survivors Keep Quiet
Why Survivors Keep Quiet- Jennifer Merrill
"If you've dealt with it for 20 years," the letter writer asked, "what's the point of dredging up all the sordid details? Especially so publicly?"
To the woman asking, the question seemed logical. Why were those who had been molested by Catholic priests coming forward after so long? After all, it was over and done with. Supposedly the survivors had gone on with their lives. It couldn't possibly be about protecting other potential victims, she argued, because then the original victims would have come forward earlier.
To someone who has never suffered from abuse, whether sexual or otherwise, it can be difficult to understand the intense emotions experienced by abuse survivors. Feelings of shame, fear of provoking further attacks, and confusion over ultimate responsibility for the abuse are just a few of the many complex factors influencing a survivor's decision to keep quiet or speak out.
To begin with, it is important to understand that abuse, whether verbal, emotional or physical, is about assault. It is used as a tool to force another human being to submit to the abuser. This can take the form of emotional blackmail, threats, denigration, the threat of violence or actual brutality. Rarely is only one type of abuse used; victims are subjected to a mix of coercive tactics, a technique that keeps them off-guard and confused, not knowing what to expect next.
Repeat offenders are also experienced in convincing their victims that the assault was the victim's fault, not the abuser's. Whatever happened, they argue, the victim made them do it, either by not cooperating quickly enough or by saying/doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, meaning control over the situation was always in the victim's own hands. "If only you hadn't made me do this, if only you'd cooperated, if only you hadn't provoked my wrath/attention/interest, then I would never have done this to you."
Psychologists call this process of using "what if" and "if only" questions counterfactual thinking. Human nature leads us, when something unexpected happens, to analyze how it happened. What actions and events led up to our good or bad fortune? How can I either cause this event to be repeated or avoid it in the future? Unfortunately, the emotional load of the assault and the careful coaching of the attacker can lead a survivor to illogical conclusions. It is far too easy to wind up agreeing with the abuser that, "If only I'd done this, that, or the other the attack wouldn't have happened. Somehow, someway, this was my fault."
When the abuser is a person who is an authority figure in the victim's life, someone that other people respect and look up to, the confusion and shame is intensified and so is the tendency to self- blame. If the victim is a child the confusion only gets worse. After all, look at all the training parents give their children in obeying not just parents, but teachers, religious leaders, police officers, etc. As a society, we teach our children to trust these people, to believe what these people tell them.
The problem is, child molesters seek out these types of positions exactly because of the trust parents and children give them. They take that trust and twist it, by telling the children lies and deliberately trying to confuse them so that the molester can further extend control over the child. It can take years, decades, for a child to overcome this type of careful conditioning.
Feelings of shame
Sexual assault (such as a molestation or rape) often carries with it a unique burden of shame, which only compounds the guilt the survivor might be feeling. Forced sexual contact violates the deepest core of an individual's identity; the natural reaction is to close up in an effort to protect that core. It can take great courage to open up again, even years later. The tendency found in our culture to blame the victim in these cases only further ensures the likelihood of a survivor's silence.
Boys who are molested have their own unique problems. If it's a woman who molested them it is all too often seen as just being an "initiation into manhood," and a man molesting them tends to leave them confused them about their sexuality. Throw in the fact that our society consistently portrays men as always being the sexual aggressors, that masculinity is often associated with readiness to have sex at any place and any time, and there sits yet another notch in the shame spiral.
Eventually, a child's need to keep the assault unknown can end up overriding all other considerations, even the nightmare of ongoing abuse.
A third reason a victim might delay coming forward is that he or she can be placed in very real danger by doing so. The woman who accused Kobe Bryant of rape is fiercely hated by many. She has received death threats, been harassed, forced to leave her home and job, and in general had her life destroyed. One man even contacted one of Bryant's bodyguards, offering to murder her.
This outpouring of anger and outrage, and accompanying attempt to shield the accused attacker is nothing unusual, unfortunately. Expose the beloved local scoutmaster, the most popular teacher in the school, the heart of the local religious community as the perpetrator of such a heinous act and many people will rally around the accused. The accuser/victim risks being ostracized, threatened, accused of being an evil person, a crazy person, a sick person. He or she might even be physically assaulted, and will certainly have to display great strength in pursuing justice in the face of such hostility.
There is also danger to a molestation survivor the first time he or she tells someone what happened. It is, sadly, not unknown for a child to tell a teacher or relative about being molested, only to have the person confided in turn around and also assault the child. For instance, years ago a friend of mine told her father that her uncle, his brother, had been molesting her. Her father's response was to also assault her. Needless to say, it was some time before she dared confide in anyone again.
Sexual assault taps into some of the most powerful emotions human beings have. So much of our physical and emotional energy is tied into our sexuality that introducing shame, secrecy, violence and coercion into the mix can create such a cycle of shame and fear that it can take considerably more than a few days or months for the survivor of such an assault to gather up the courage to admit, even to themselves, that it happened. It's a type of victimization that is uniquely damaging, and that damage is only compounded by the manipulative efforts of the criminal, and any negative reactions from the people around the victim.
|10-24-2003, 02:54 PM||#2 (permalink)|
Big kitty nose hugs
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Center of The World
This is alot of info..thank you MG
Love In Spirit,
Where my heart is.......
"Never Give In, Never Give In, Never Give In,
Never, Never, Never."
~~Sir Winston Churchill~~
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