Monsters and Missteps
A few months ago, close friend and powerful writer Lani Wendt Young wrote a mind-blowing blog on childhood sexual abuse and her personal experience. As I read her words and the comments that followed, I was brought to tears. Lani's blog was so incredibly brave and honest. The comments were even more moving, with so many women thanking her for letting them know they weren't alone, and for empowering them.
Shortly after, Tammara Webber and I won a plagiarism lawsuit, and one of the organizations we both chose to donate to was RAINN.org. Anyone who has read Webber's novel Easy knows sexual assault is something Tammara takes very seriously, and donating was a choice for me for very personal reasons.
Two days ago, an author friend directed me to an article about the stigma regarding sexual abuse, and how it seems so many celebrities get a pass. That article spoke to me so much that I decided to share it on my Facebook page. Most people know that I'm outspoken, but I try very hard not to post things that may anger my readers, or that even may be a trigger for memories they don't want to be brought to the surface when surfing the Internet. This article was just that important to me.
Today, another author friend posted an article about Stephen King's "misstep" on Twitter.
When King spit unprovoked insults at Stephenie Meyer last year, I lost quite a bit of respect for him. After his words regarding the letter from Ms. Farrow on her sexual abuse by adoptive father Woody Allen today, I have lost all respect for him.
King, in less than 142 characters, perpetuated everything that is wrong with our society regarding childhood sexual abuse, and sexual assault in general. Blaming the victim, who is probably just looking for attention, that the victim is a liar until she/he proves that their childhood memory of what happened in a private room with no witnesses really happened, and to keep the secret for fear of all of those things.
Make no mistake, friends, that thing we don't talk about? Happens to 1 in 3 girls by the time they reach 18. Have you walked into a room comprised of four women? One of them have been sexually assaulted as a child. Think our sons are safe? 1 in 6 of American boys is a victim of childhood sexual abuse. 3 out of 4 adolescents who were sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well.
These criminals seek out our children. They're predators. And they count on silence. On the slim chance they're reported, and slimmer chance that the parents aren't too scared (for various reasons, not wanting attention, wanting to protect their child from the stress of a trial, etc.) to file charges, and even slimmer chance enough evidence can bring these predators up on charges, more often than not pedophiles are allowed to plead to a lesser, non-sexual charge. Charges like Child Abuse by Mental Injury that, even if the perpetrator pleads guilty, doesn't land them on the sex offender list. They can move away, and no one in their new town has a clue that the new T-ball coach has been arrested for child molestation.
One of the problems with not talking to each other is that child molesters and rapists are neighbors. Fathers. Step brothers. Preachers. Deacons. Teachers. Youth group leaders. Husbands of child care providers. They're not just some neighbor, preacher or father, they're our neighbors, preachers, and fathers. 93% of juvenile victims know their attacker. That number is staggering. Makes it feel different, doesn't it? If someone close to you, or even just someone you liked (like a celebrity, for instance) was accused of sexual abuse? How likely would you be to have a discussion, then? But we should, if for no other reason than to protect the next child that abuser will victimize and destroy forever [see The Long Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse, here].
This isn't meant to be a scare-tactic post, but if we don't start talking about sexual abuse and STOP protecting the perpetrator, the sexual abuse of children will never stop. And believe me, if you think it's not your problem, with statistics like 20%, 33%, and 93%, it likely already is.
I just read Stephen King's apology. I can applaud him for apologizing so quickly after his "misstep", however the not-so-subtle plugs of his previous novels weren't lost on me. Neither was the sympathy-inducing bit about being raised by a single mother. We all have mothers. Many of us were raised by single mothers, but the difference is that Mr. King tweeted his honest thoughts about the letter by Ms. Farrow, and he used the word "palpable bitchery". Unfortunately, King is not alone. There are far too many who have this line of thinking: that the victim is somehow to blame, that the accusation is a plea for attention, or is "vindictive". This type of repressive speech makes our children even more susceptible.
Despite my anger about someone who is in a position to change hundreds of thousands' thinking about the sexual abuse of children, and failing on all counts, Mr. King actually did something right today: he started a conversation. And we should keep it going.