Time for a change
It's 2004. Can you comfortably talk now as an adult about your abuse anywhere except in a therapy setting? In our society, the can of worms marked 'abused in childhood' is opened, only to be sealed back with a soldering iron in no time. When it is addressed, society slaps itself on the back heartily for having been brave enough to bring it up at all.
We are all vulnerable creatures. Abuse does leave its mark. Bullying in the playground, the classroom or at work, harassment, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, even violent physical assault - they all happen. Society is proud that we get knocked down, we get up again and we get on with life. Rape victims and perhaps one 'confessor', if they had one, lived right through life in silence. Their truth was buried with them. Go to a rape crisis centre now and you will find the counsellors are trained to encourage some male and all female victims to talk about their ordeal to as many people as possible following their attack. This is now regarded as fundamental in the healing process.
Paedophilia and child abuse, however, remain a very dark force in our consciousness. As a society we all live unknowingly amongst the abusers and the abused. When we are forced to watch as yet more of the abused step forward, the accepted response is horror that this parallel universe really does exist. Months or weeks later when yet more of them hit the spotlight, society is horrified all over again. Those who did suffer are encouraged to pretend that they did not. Unknowingly perhaps, their continuous performance silently comforts those who would live less happily with the reality.
Say, 'I was abused as a child' in a private chat, and your face becomes very grey indeed. Your listener sinks down thanklessly into a deep lonely dark well. Society has always borne a heavy burden of shame for failing to protect innocent children and continues to do so. The realisation that abuse really did go on, often repeatedly, in secret, and was tolerated by everyone known to the abused and the abuser(s) has a paralysing effect. The listener is powerless, brushing off your words with a change of subject, an excuse for an exit, perhaps an unspoken reason not to see you again. Horror and shock when reminded that the parallel universe of abuse is real, is becoming a bit of a worn out old tune, if not a somewhat naive one. Society should be mature enough to listen, without sealing the sufferers away in a therapy closet, talking about professional boundaries and taking a fee just for paying attention. People who don't have enough honest strength to listen to the abused and the truth of what happened to them are wanting. Perhaps it is they who need help.
Isn't it time for you to speak up about why your mother, brother, father or certain people really did disappear from your life, without feeling ashamed or to blame? Isn't it time for you to get back your self respect by being able to tell someone who could become a real friend, instead of an acquaintance, all about why you can't stand showing your childhood photos, why you really didn't complete your education, or why you don't trust the Church or other institutions? Time doesn't alter memories of abuse or make them better, or heal them. No, time only teaches us to deal with our pain better. Healing means becoming generous of heart and letting in the new. Healing to that extent can take time, but it does not erase the truth of our life's experience, and the consequences of those experiences, because that is, unavoidably, a part of who we are.
It's time for everyone to look out for the abused and listen to them with their hearts, and with their minds, their sense of justice and perhaps above all their integrity and respect. The abused have tried their best to heal. Now it's society's turn to get going. Now it's your turn, if not to listen, to speak up, say your truth and be heard.
PLEASE NOTE: NAPAC makes every effort to remove all identifying information. Names of perpetrators are only used where there has been a conviction in a court of law. NAPAC is not responsible for the accuracy of the stories.