I thought if I ignored it long enough and hard enough that it’d go away but it just seems to keep getting worse. Elmo from Sesame Street? Really???
Is anybody else noticing that the sexual predators and pedophiles that are being brought to our attention within just the last year are not creepy strangers lurking in the shadows but in most cases are actually people in celebrated and admired roles? And they’re not hidden either: football legends, charity founders, youth leaders, priests and most recently, both here in the US and in England, TV personalities.
For those unfamiliar about what’s been going on “across the pond” a scandal over a late British celebrity has been unfolding in a very familiar way. http://www.democracynow.org/2012/11/13/bbc_scandal_exposes_cover_up_of After his death last year in October 2011, hundreds (approximately 300!) of rape and child sexual abuse allegations against the popular TV personality were made public leading the British police to believe that the entertainer – who thousands listened to over the radio and watched on TV over the course of his 50+ year career – may have been one of England’s most prolific sex offenders. Like the Penn State, Catholic Church and Boy Scout sex abuse scandals, this pedophile’s activities did not go without notice by his higher-ups at the BBC and “lucky us”, one just crossed the pond to join us here in America. http://frontpagemag.com/2012/lori-handrahan/mark-thompson-from-pedophile-cover-up-to-the-new-york-times/ Great – he should fit right in here.
In “Elmo’s case” much has been made about the first accuser’s recanting his allegation 24 hours after issuing it. http://stupidcelebrities.net/2012/11/elmo-puppeteer-accuser-sheldon-stephens-flip-flops-on-his-story-again/ A victim recanting or retracting his/her initial claim of abuse is typically misinterpreted by those who don’t fully understand the complexity of the action (or is exploited by the opportunistic) as a critical flaw in the victim’s credibility that in turn is MISused as “evidence” to point towards the accused’s “innocence”.
What many fail to realize is that abuse disclosure is a process (as opposed to a one-time event) that may very well take years to get to which is why it frequently takes “so long” for victim-survivors to finally disclose what happened to them, and which is why child victims come forward as adult survivors to pursue justice or to confront their abusers. The process is one that for the victim-survivor includes:
- Remembering the abuse; recognizing and admitting to him/herself that the abuse actually took place because psychological defense and coping mechanisms in response to the trauma of abuse may have prevented the victim-survivor from remembering the abuse. For example, a common coping mechanism for many sex abuse victims is to “go somewhere else in their head” while the abuse is happening. (Think of the scene from the movie “Precious” where Precious imagines herself at a Hollywood premiere while she’s being raped. What would you prefer to remember? Being raped as a child or being decked out in the finest and surrounded by cheering fans?)
- Dealing with the floodgate of emotions that will stem from the abuse: feeling like “damaged goods”, less than and beyond saving; anger towards the abuser and towards anyone who failed to intervene on the victim’s behalf; not being believed, shame and all the losses affiliated with abuse – loss of the belief in good, loss of faith, the loss of belief in oneself, etc.
- Understanding the many consequences the abuse has played in the victim-survivor’s life: how the abuse has impacted relationships, intimacy, trust, fears and phobias, addictions, personal potential, etc.
- Healing from and changing the unhealthy coping and behavioral mechanisms that have resulted from the abuse so the victim can accept the truths that: you didn’t ask for what happened to you; this is NOT your fault; you ARE NOT “damaged goods”; you are a lovable, capable and worthwhile human being who was violated when the word “no” wasn’t in your abuser’s vocabulary and you CAN have a “happily ever after” despite what you endured.
- Then this is the “fun part”: Closure – coming to peace/resolution through: a symbolic ritual (ie: writing down exactly what happened to you then burning it in a fire; destroying, banishing or getting rid of something that represents or reminds you of what happened); confronting your abuser; publicly exposing your abuser and/or pursuing justice for what the abuser did to you.
And then for some, if so inspired, the abuse survivors will add to the legion of grassroots advocates (or professionals) to prevent what happened to them from happening to anyone else through education and awareness efforts.
Please bear in mind that the process described above is done in the face of doubt, intense scrutiny, hostility, disbelief and is sometimes accompanied by open jeering and mocking. Though deemed as “courageous”, the “supportive environment” is very hard to come by when you step forward publicly as an abuse survivor.
IF – as an abuse survivor – you haven’t been shamed into silence and choose to go “the hard route” by seeking justice, you might easily find yourself in the same position of “Elmo’s” first accuser if your abuser is rich and/or famous: stuck in a room with attorneys who are pressuring you to sign a settlement “agreement”.
Even though Accuser #1 signed the settlement agreement, doing so does not exonerate the accused, especially since it was noted that the accuser was resistant and crying as he did so. That Accuser #1 recanted his recantment the following day doesn’t disprove his claims either – if anything it lends authenticity to his abuse allegations because money isn’t the goal of an abuse victim-survivor’s claims – JUSTICE is.
Children’s disclosure of sexual abuse has been described as a quasi-developmental process that includes stages of denial. reluctance, disclosure, recantation. and reaffirmation (Sorenson & Snow. 1991. Summit. 1983). It has been reported that nearly 75% of sexual abuse victims initially deny abuse, and that nearly 25% eventually recant their allegations (Sorenson & Snow. 1991 ). http://www.secasa.com.au/pages/how-do-children-tell-the-disclosure-process-in-child-abuse/
Sorenson and Snow (1991) found that most disclosures of abuse were accidental (74%) and that many victims (22%) recanted their statements only to reaffirm them later (93% of recantations). 72% of victims initially denied abuse, and 78% were reluctant to discuss the abuse.
What never ceases to amaze me is that regardless of how loudly folks are outraged by abuse, how quickly they are to turn that outrage towards the victims/accusers rather then towards the abusers/accused. Instead of public support, protection and justice for the abuse survivors, those things seem to be reserved for the abusers and the more rich/famous the accused, the louder the rally cry is to defend them.
What is as equally perplexing is how all the cheering stops when the accused are proven guilty; even then there is no compassion, consolation or public apologies for the abused – the crowds disperse in shock trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, shaking their heads while saying “… but he was such a nice guy…”