This post originally went live on mydnyht.wordpress.com on 25 July 2013.
We’ve all seen them on Facebook: those images that people share and “like” on Facebook, the ones that say things like “The last thing a child molester should see is the barrel of a gun” or “Why are we still testing on animals when there are child molesters?”. It’s a popular sentiment among people who already support the death penalty, and for those who don’t, it’s still often tempting to click “like” or share in the general idea of what the picture is saying.
To those people who post these, I would like to use this quote from Jenna Marbles:
Pipe. The Fuck. Down.
It’s so easy to use this line of thinking when the child molester you envision is an aging, perverted, childless man. The coach from Penn State. The Boy Scout troop leader. The priest. When we imagine a child molester, these are the archetypes they take. However, when you are a young twenty something woman who is trying to piece together foggy memories of potential past abuse – like I was – most people do not automatically say, “Let’s get this figured out so we can send that fucker to jail. I’ll help you press charges against the bastard.” No, what most people will say is, “Those are very serious accusations. You shouldn’t say anything about it because that could ruin someone’s life.” They’ll tell you to stop thinking about it, that it’s in the past, so just put it behind you. They assume you’ll want to go to the police, and furthermore, they assume that going to the police is a bad thing. They’ll worry that you’re going to blackmail someone, or use this as a card you can hold over everyone’s head. They won’t understand that you’re not angry at the person who molested you; they won’t understand that you feel as though you can’t be angry at them, because you knew them, because you loved them, because you have good memories with them, along with the bad. Because the person who potentially molested you isn’t that archetype, because the person who potentially molested you is someone they knew and trusted, they don’t want to believe you. And then when you tell them about the molestation that you do remember, the thing that was done to you by a woman, they don’t believe you. They don’t believe you because it was a woman, because how could a woman do something like that, and because how could that incident be sexual abuse in the first place? They laugh at you cruelly and tell you that they have the right to police your body and determine what is abuse and what isn’t.
I don’t have any statistics to give you about how often childhood sexual abuse takes place within the context of a family, versus taking place in an outsider childcare situation. But I have heard stories. I have heard stories of families being torn apart and taking sides because so often, they don’t want to believe the survivor. People become angry at survivors and shame them for talking about the abuse, for bringing it out from behind closed doors. People tell the survivor that it’s a “right of passage”, and they tell them to keep their mouth shut. This is the reality of childhood sexual abuse. It is not always easy, cut-and-dry, good versus evil. It is often times murky and confusing and angering. And that anger is not always directed at the person who did the hurting – often times, that anger is directed at someone who did nothing wrong and who did nothing to deserve being touched like that.
The next time you think of what a child molester does and doesn’t deserve, think about that child molester being someone you know, someone you care about. And then think of them doing that terrible thing to someone else that you know, someone else that you care about. Think about the confusion and the fear that survivor is feeling. Think about the confusion and the fear that you might be feeling. Remember that it isn’t always a black and white division. And the next time someone tells you they think they may have been touched inappropriately but may have blocked the memory, for goodness sake, be compassionate toward them.