CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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The emotional wall that blocks the truth

Why is it that the truth about one of the most hateful and damaging crimes against vulnerable children and women is hidden by both the victim and the sexual molester and abuser and by society, too? 
 
This wall of silence is one that causes pain and suffering for millions of victims. It is one of the important aspects of the delayed allegations of the women accusing Brett Kavanaugh, the nominee of Donald Trump, the president of the United States (US) for the position of chief justice of the Supreme Court, of sexual assault which he strongly denies.
 
Trump has continued to brashly declare that the allegations are false. If it was such a bad assault, why did they not report it to their parents and police many years ago, Trump asks.
 
There has been a great shift in society in recent years whereby the taboo against complaining or protesting is eroding and so too the silence and cover-up of sexual crime. It is a moral and social breakthrough as seen in the #MeToo movement. Many are freely talking about the abuse they suffered.
 
There is the stunning fact that two out of three sexual assaults against women and children are never reported. The majority of abusers are partners, friends, relatives, an employer or a neighbour. They are not total strangers but are known to the victim. Why is there a delay in reporting? 
 
Based on government information from the United Kingdom (UK), only 46 per cent of the low number of reported sexual attacks is actually reported on the day it occurred, whereas 14 per cent of victims took up to six months to report the sexual violence. Child victims of abuse take even longer and fewer actually report abuse. Most bury it within and remain afraid and silent. This causes life-long traumatic effects. The study shows that only 28 per cent of the children who reported abuse did so on the day it happened while one third waited longer than six months to tell anyone. Delayed reporting is common.  
 
Those young women who had the courage to break the wall of fear and imposed silence and speak out against those powerful men that abused them have shown the way and encouraged many others. This is really historical. It’s amazing that the testimony of one can ignite courage in many more. The power of one is immense. The powerful, male-dominated society that treats women as inferior and expects them to endure abuse without complaining has changed.
 
Rape is a horrendous crime and the world is changing and many men have fallen from the pinnacle of power in recent years and weeks. Those in powerful positions want all to see no evil, hear no evil and are still trying to stop this wave of truth-telling to the media. Many traumatised victims of abuse prefer to stay behind the wall of silence most of their lives because of several powerful inhibitions. The most predominant is that primeval powerful and paralysing instinct in the human psyche—fear. 
 
A child, a teenager or young woman or man who has been sexually assaulted by a person in a position of power and ascendency generally sees themselves as helpless and weak. They fear the world as threatening, unbelieving and ready to blame them for allowing the abuse to happen.
 
Some mothers of children abused by their biological father or live-in partner refuse to accept the truth when the child complains and they scold and blame the child for lying. This greatly adds to the pain, physical and psychological trauma of being sexually abused.
 
In the lives of the children six- to 16-years-old, whom we help at the Preda Home for sexually abused children, the screaming of anger and hatred of some as they beat the cushions in Emotional Release Therapy is against their mother or unbelieving relatives. “Why did you let him do it to me?” they cry in anguish.
 
Conservative adults tend to condemn victims for involvement in any sexual act outside of marriage. They say it is always sin.  Even acts done against the will and consent of the victim have traditionally brought judgment and condemnation, and consequently shame and guilt upon the victims. It is a serious injustice.
 
In the UK, Wales and Australia, studies have shown about one in every five women or minors have suffered sexual violence and very few report the abuse. One in three children are sexually abused.
 
The woman has been historically victimised since that false interpretation of the Garden of Eden story. Eve, the woman, is portrayed as the fallen temptress of the innocent male, Adam, and the woman has been long held responsible for the downfall of humankind and the loss of paradise, decency and happiness. It was surely a man who wrote the story. 
 
That Judeo-Christian traditional belief has lingered on in secular society and has prejudiced many people against the female victim of abuse.  
 
Victims, besides fear and shame, do not report abuse because of family. Children may be blamed for putting their father or relative in prison or because they will have no income or they will be marked and stigmatised as if they have a disease. Others think that there will be no investigation  and no justice is possible. In the US, only 18 per cent of reported cases of rape lead to an arrest. Out of that number, only two per cent ever get convicted.
 
It’s not all hopeless gloom and doom. Children are fighting back. The victims whom Preda helped after therapy are open and empowered and testify strongly and are in most cases credible. Backed by medical evidence, they have constantly won their cases. 
 
In this year alone, as of September 2018, 13 accused child rapists and traffickers have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison thanks to the Preda social workers and paralegal officer. It’s hope and justice and we need a lot more of it.
 
 
Father Shay Cullen 
www.preda.org