Finally, the time has arrived when the topic of abuse and maltreatment of children can be discussed rationally. Doors have opened, secrets have been unveiled, and skeletons, once skillfully hidden within virtual closets, have been freed from silence to rattle their ancient bones and wake a sleeping public! Yep, it is true - child abuse runs rampant in our society as an epidemic, unabated. The statistics remain staggering and escalating daily:
Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children. The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect. (CDC, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study; Child Maltreatment, 2012). A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds. Yearly, referrals to state child protective services involve 6.3 million children, and around 3 million of those children are subject to an investigated report (Kids Count1,2,3). In 2012, state agencies identified an estimated 1,640 children who died as a result of abuse and neglect — between four and five children a day (Kids Count1,2,3). (Studies also indicate significant undercounting of child maltreatment fatalities by state agencies).
Consequently, new cases of child abuse in 2008 alone will incur lifetime estimates of lost worker productivity, health care costs, special education costs, child welfare expenditures and criminal justice expenditures up to $124 billion (US Government Accountability Office). Tax payers will bear this financial burden of ignoring and denying the reality of child abuse and its prevalence in America. This leaves the powers to be a choice of how to lower these costs: curtail the abuse and maltreatment of children or lower the cost of caring for the victims and survivors of abuse by creating government programs that, when implemented, might effectively combat the effects of trauma on survivors.
Clearly, a pattern emerges that cannot be dismissed:
1) Statistics of child maltreatment continue to grow exponentially.
2) Survivors of abuse and child victim numbers are beyond comprehension - adult survivors of sexual abuse alone in the United States number more than 42 million (NAASCA).
3) Professional caregivers who treat abuse survivors and victims continue as always - medicating clients and practicing 'models' and 'theories' that they believe will stabilize and ultimately cure folks struggling with the symptoms caused by childhood abuse.
4) Government agencies pull together programs that, when implemented, should create within survivors the ability to become more productive and less of a drain on tax payers.
Obviously, these tactics have no effect on the staggering statistics of child abuse or the criminals who abuse children. This pattern, that has continued for centuries, effectively draws public attention away from the real problem of children being abused and society's responsibility to protect them to the notion that adult survivors and child victims are 'the problem'.
Clearly, the recent shift in child abuse cases coming to light, criminal predators being tried and convicted, and the beginning of possible solutions to slowing the epidemic of child abuse cases has happened because of the efforts of adult survivors of abuse. Survivors are beginning to be viewed as not only credible but also, essential to investigations that identify and punish criminals.
Finally, the public has begun questioning the credibility of perpetrator groups who have gone to great lengths to paint survivors of abuse as liars, crazy, and inept. Citizens are taking abuse reports seriously, and authorities are working hard to bring the cases to light and criminals to justice. Attorneys are now reaching out to survivors offering to support them as they take their perpetrators to court to be tried for their crimes.
Not only were most abuse survivors and child victims viewed by the public as not credible but also, treated with disdain as if unworthy of being believed. Since the early 90's, public campaigns led by perpetrator groups have created, within our society, ridiculous notions such as: All survivors have 'false memories' (a theory never proved); All therapists who treat survivors 'implant' false memories and/or personality states within clients’ brains (again, never proved).
Accordingly, perpetrator-attorneys, hired to defend accused abusers, created the illusion that victims were actually the 'abusers' tearing their families apart with lies; abusers were actually victims of clinicians and liars conspiring against them. These tactics swayed juries, and perpetrators walked free.
During these difficult times, therapists were sued for 'implanting memories' in their clients’ brains. Textbooks, still studied by students of psychology today, were written portraying these types of 'theories' as having scientific truth. Many practicing clinicians remain ignorant that these theories were never proved and incorrect - basing their notion of trauma and their beliefs of trauma clients on the idea that their memories are 'false'.
Consequently, survivors have been treated as if they need years of therapy, because their thinking is somehow clouded and irrational - and, all because of years of crimes committed against them. I know of no other survivor-group that has endured such treatment by society - prejudicial treatment meant to demean and undermine their intelligence and creditability. They were ultimately silenced, because crimes were committed against them - how does that make sense to anyone? Yet, research suggests that children who survive the most horrifying of abuse could not have done so were they not highly intelligent. But, not intelligent enough to know what happened to them or who hurt them? Not intelligent enough to know their own symptoms and/or the best ways to treat them? Did they lose their intelligence during the abuse - or do they have rights to not only report their crimes, but also be taken seriously? Should they be listened to and heard - or hide from a society that judges them as not credible?
Is it possible that some 42 million survivors in America have also been led to believe that they are powerless, unbelievable, and a burden on society? More likely, survivors are actually the solution, rather than the 'problem'.
"Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity." - Joseph Sugarman, American Author
Obviously, the problem has never been the victims or survivors of child abuse but rather, the perpetrators who continue abusing children. We now have the opportunity to empower survivors and/or victims by hearing them, believing them, and giving them a voice.
"We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows". – Robert Frost, The Secret Sits
Yes, Robert Frost's words ring true. The 'secrets' that survivors hide ‘are’ the answer to curtailing and possibly, even putting a stop to child abuse once and for all. Not only that, but survivors also hold the answers that could help professionals understand how early childhood trauma affects people, as well as how to identify children who are being abused. As society has pushed survivors out of the loop, they have missed an opportunity to utilize the brilliance and expertise held by 42 million folks, not only in the area of understanding trauma and dissociation, but also knowledge of the perpetrators and their behavior. Survivors have information that could help authorities know where and how to find perpetrators. They know names and places. The information they hold is as credible as any other survivor of a crime. If we, as a society, ever want to protect our children, survivors knowledge and intelligence needs to be taken seriously and their reports investigated.
Of course, taking this sort of action will threaten millions of perpetrators who depend on survivors' silence - that the fear they instilled in them as children remains intact, fear that has been reinforced by a society's disrespect for them as credible adults. At this time, in our history as a nation, perpetrators roam free to abuse children, while survivors and victims are paralyzed and silenced by threats and public animosity and humiliation. That is - as of today.
Tomorrow is a new day. Ask forty-two million survivors - and, I venture to say, they would be more than willing to lend their expertise, intelligence, and information by working together with authorities, professionals in the field of trauma, and victims of crimes in order to protect our children from predators. Survivors are strong, intelligent, natural advocates for children - and they have been silenced for far too long!
copyright protected (2016) Pat Goodwin, MA - you do not have permission to copy this article.