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Child Sexual Abuse: the Neglected Little Sister of the #MeToo Movement

I was enormously gratified last year to watch as the #MeToo movement erupted with a sudden and powerful force, to see sexual harassment and assault survivors courageously tell their truths as the world finally paid proper attention. I cheered the brave women and men who came forward, risking more of the judgment, doubt, and scorn they had likely already experienced. I felt hugely gratified to witness perpetrators of abuse finally being called out and made to answer for their crimes. Most of all, I cried tears of joy to know that – at last – our society is shining a ray of light on the dark, hidden, shame-filled world of sexual victimization, for illumination is the only sure path to the prevention of sexual abuse, as well as justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators.

I, too am a survivor, not of assault or harassment but of child sexual abuse. In the midst of this exciting and long overdue change in collective attitudes, I can’t help but feel that child sexual abuse is being somewhat left behind, a sort of neglected little sister of the #MeToo movement. While the subject has shared some of the attention and victims have been emboldened to speak out more, there is still much work to do before we fully acknowledge and address the dangers and damaging effects of child victimization.

Child sexual abuse is upsetting to think about. Naturally, most of us would rather not contemplate the violation of vulnerable children or the ruthless perpetrators who live in our midst and commit these pernicious crimes. Yet, the data tells us that child sexual abuse happens all around us on a daily basis, and it is generally perpetrated by seemingly normal, pleasant adults whom victims know – and often trust.

It’s a topic that is fraught with cultural taboos and elicits embarrassment and shame. Just as many, if not most women have their own painful #MeToo stories, a large number of us have been affected in some way by the crossing of sexual boundaries during our childhoods. Even if we were not afflicted, chances are pretty good that someone in our lives was.

The only way for us as a society to effectively address the epidemic of child sexual abuse is to look directly at the problem in all of its frightening and tragic reality. As responsible adults and citizens, each of us needs to do our part; from educating ourselves and our children on warning signs and body safety to alerting authorities about potential signs of abuse.

I use the phrase “neglected little sister” because, while it is important to recognize that males and females alike are subject to sexual abuse, the vast majority of victims who speak out against sexual assault, harassment, and abuse have been women. I have a more personal reason as well. I was six or seven years old when my abuse began. The grownups in my world did not protect me. When I grew up and felt the need to address my trauma, my family turned away. They showed little interest in joining me in my healing journey or holding the abuser accountable.  

I tell my story because I see it as a parallel to the way our culture treats all sexual abuse victims. Too often, we turn a blind eye to dangers and signs, discourage and punish victims for speaking up, shy away from holding abusers accountable, and allow them to maintain their power positions (which often make it easier for them to abuse). In all these ways, we let victims down and allow sexual abuse to perpetuate.

Thankfully, there is reason to believe this destructive pattern may be starting to change. The media coverage of Larry Nassar’s crimes against US Gymnasts felt different as it captured the powerful voices of the gymnasts and drew attention to the injustice of their ordeals. As these brave women spoke about their abuse, they made it clear that US Gymnastics and the National Olympic Committee had failed to protect them by turning a blind eye to evidence, ignoring numerous complaints, and supporting a perpetrator at the expense of their gymnasts’ safety and emotional wellbeing. When this group of survivors won the ESPY Arthur Ashe award for courage, the message was clear that they were wronged by the sports industry, and they were right to speak up. I saw that moment as a welcome shift from our historical tendency to change the subject.

Now, we must keep this momentum going. The world has finally woken up from its slumber of denial and dismissiveness and begun to give weight to the voices of sexual assault and harassment victims; to believe their stories and hold their perpetrators accountable. Potential abusers are finally on notice that they may get called out and face consequences for their crimes. Child sexual abuse deserves at least an equal measure of our attention, given the lifelong damage it creates and the inherent vulnerability of children. We have broken through the silence on sexual harassment and assault. Let’s do the same for child sexual abuse.

 

Comments(16)

  1. REPLY
    Miss Hope says

    Thank you for sharing your story and giving visibility to the ‘neglected little sister’.

    • REPLY
      secondwound says

      You are so welcome.

  2. REPLY
    RisingUp says

    Thank you for sharing this powerful message…I hope it reaches those who need to be reached.

    • REPLY
      secondwound says

      Thanks for your kind words. I hope so too.

  3. REPLY
    iwalkwithalimp says

    Reblogged this on I Walk with a Limp and commented:
    My thoughts put into words.

    • REPLY
      secondwound says

      I’m glad it resonated with you.

      • REPLY
        iwalkwithalimp says

        It did, deeply. Thanks for putting into words what I’ve been thinking but for some reason never thought to write. You did so both eloquently and powerfully.

  4. REPLY
    secondwound says

    That means a lot, thank you.

  5. REPLY
    GettingrealwithPTSD says

    Reblogged this on GettingrealwithPTSD.

  6. REPLY
    Alexis Rose says

    This is a great post. So well said, and hit the root of what a lot of survivors think but haven’t been able to articulate. Thank you!

    • REPLY
      secondwound says

      Thank you, it’s helpful to hear from others who feel the same way.

  7. REPLY
    Secret Keeper says

    This is good insight. The neglected little sister (brother)….yes….little ones can’t use #metoo as a platform…they are trapped and controlled and silenced. They are left behind and forgotten about because they aren’t strong enough to speak out without consequences. This may be why it feels like those parts of our stories are not being heard. They can’t be spoken until later. So the little ones get lost in time.

  8. REPLY
    Jean Saumier says

    Thank you for being brave enough to send this. I don’t think you realize just how many people you have touched. I am now in my 60s and though I have verbalized to my family they denied me. I am also in treatment but a very long and difficult road but the right road. Keep strong.

    • REPLY
      miranda.pacchiana says

      Thank you for the kind words. I’m so sorry your family does not stand with you in your truth.

  9. REPLY
    Emer says

    Really well written. I am in a similar situation to yours but also have domestic violence in the in laws side of the family.

    The situations are so complex. That human need to make everything alright again and just sweep away problems under the rug can be so strong even in victims of the abuse themselves. It is such an isolating and lonely experience fully facing up to and dealing with the fallout of abuse and leaving all of the denial behind. Becoming the bad guy for doing the right thing is so sad.

    • REPLY
      miranda.pacchiana says

      It does indeed take a lot of courage and survival instinct to face these painful truths. But for those of us on the side of reality and healing, we can’t go back. Take heart that you are in great company and you’re honoring yourself. Be well.

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