The Secret of Sexual Abuse

This afternoon I was doing a little eavesdropping at a cafe, and I overheard two hipster women talking about how the movie "Precious" just seems "totally unrealistic".

"Like all that could even happen to one person," one said.

"Nobody normal has two babies by their father," said the other. "Maybe one baby, but not two," she laughed. "You have two babies by your dad, you wanted two babies by your dad."

I hated them as they laughed and laughed over their wittiness. I hated their perception of reality. People go through such insanity and abuse in their personal lives, and sometimes we know it, sometimes we don't. Not everyone puts their business out there for everyone else's consumption, and sometimes the worst stories of abuse are the ones that never get told.

But what really killed me was their insinuation that victims of sexual abuse want it. Those two hipsters thought they were so clever with their comments, I wondered if they really knew what they were saying.

I guess those two clowns have never heard of California's very own Jaycee Lee Dugard, kidnapped by a psychopath at the age of 11, raped by him for 18 years, and then accidentally found and rescued this past summer. Jaycee had not one but two daughters by the man who kidnapped and raped her. But according to these two hipsters, Jaycee must've wanted that.

Maybe they haven't yet heard the horrible story of a 29 year-old Queens, NY woman who cut off her father's penis, boiled it, and accidentally killed him because he choked to death on the rag she'd stuffed in his mouth. Why'd she do it? Oh, because he'd been raping her since she was three, she knew he'd had sex with other underage girls, and she was afraid he was going to begin raping her nieces.

Or maybe they've never been told by any of their friends how they were sexually abused by a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent or neighbor.

But that's hard to believe. Never ever? Really? Because isn't the statistic that one in four girls in this country are victims of sexual abuse?

The sad thing is that it's easy for these young women to say stupid crap about the victims of sexual abuse because victims rarely have a voice and get little or no support from the rest of us.

There's so much sexual abuse of children in our culture, but it's such a "secret". No one wants to talk about it. Families push it under the rug and act like it didn't happen. The victims are told to get over it. Teachers dread the moment they find out about abuse happening to a student because then they have to deal with reporting it and that's more work for them.

When it does come out, too many people act like the victim must've done something to cause it. Must have secretly wanted the abuse to happen.

We miss the point that we are complicit in the continued sexualization of children and their abuse when we fail to ask ourselves WHY there's so much abuse in our culture. What's really behind it and what do we need to collectively change in order to protect the children around us?

I'm still not a fan of the casting decisions made for Precious but if this movie opens people's eyes to the kind and amount of sexual abuse that goes on, and if people can somehow watch it and not just see it as a story that happens to poor black girls in the ghetto, maybe I won't have to sit next to clueless hipsters in a coffee shop anymore.


nick said…
It's hard to believe how ignorant some people can be of what's going on behind closed doors. You'd think women in particular would know. The level of sexual abuse in just about every country is horrifying high and as you say often kept secret for one reason or another.

Women in the street frequently look at me suspiciously and I asume that's because many of them have at some time been sexually abused, raped or molested (or know someone who was) and quite naturally now have lingering doubts about any man they see, until reassured otherwise.

Nothing much will change until both men and women admit the full extent of sexual abuse and declare quite unequivocally that it's barbaric and sickening and needs to be stamped out.
jstele said…
Those women were certainly crude, but I think it's more of a defense mechanism because no one wants to believe that a father would impregnate his daughter twice. A lot of times people blame the victim as a defensive tactic. They want to think that the victim has the power to make it not happen. They don't want to believe that the world can be so horrible. If others are powerless, then so are they.
Anonymous said…
The world is built around power and abuse, the problem of child sexual abuse has been with us for many a year, it is in many homes across the world, it is in the hidden codes of our establishment and not so "secret society".
Our enforced societal rules are that we cannot honestly publicly talk about it, otherwise, scorn, shame condemnation and marginalisation.
Is this not the construct of a bent civilisation?
Why is it not part of our global or national school curricullum? Is that not social education?
The situation is getting worse rather than better. Statistics show alarming increases that public health authorities refuse to address. It is great that a major film is tackling the issue so that we can deal with the problem of survivors recovering and healing and the purportrators receiving punishment and help.
Can we speak the unspoken? Some of us can, some of us cannot, some of us wont break ranks, we will not go against our system and speak out. So many of us have suffered abuse silently and carry it like a cross of burden throughout our lives, shedding a private tear on our pillows with nobody on the planet knowing what happened and nobody would ever imagine the horror and the pain of our experience. Coming out would maybe ruin our families lives and we may lose friends and standing in our communities for speaking the truth. We are forced to sweep it under the carpet, the consequences of not doing so are often not worth the hassle of coming out. Anonymously we can come out and explain the devastating effects of sexual abuse but publicly would it be worthwhile?
There are so many other taboo subjects that effect our lives, such as domestic violence, mental health, substance addiction, homosexuality, people with severe disabilities and the after effects of racism, to name a few.
These are all governed and controlled by the powers that be so that us the public cannot even begin to think how to overcome such a wicked unfortunate happening of sexual abuse. Our legislation and judiciary systems are plainly inadequate and probably controlled by the champions of such deviant behaviour.
If I told my family that I had been sexually abused as a child they would not believe me, most of them would disown me, some of them would be ashamed of me and some of them even attack me verbally or physically. Some would display shame, some pity, very few would display understanding, empathy, care and support. Where would coming out get me.? Is it better to let sleeping dogs lie? One thing I dislike about some blogs is that people never really want to hear the raw truth, even online, there is a sanitisation of thoughts and views that are somehow polarised and shaped by our standing in society who we are and where we are from and by the unwritten rules of a seriously messed up ruling elte.
Who knows about many of the wonderful projects and foundations that help people recover from sexual abuse? Not many of us! Its almost like they are hidden or invisable.
Not many celebrity survivors stepping forward, hats off to Oprah Winfrey for trying to raise awareness and for bringing this topic into mainstream thoughts and discussions, talk about opening a can of worms!
I pray that we all pray on the matter, I am sure there is a divine answer.
Liz thanks for delicately bringing up a difficult topic with grace, style and discernment.
Kari Carlson said…
also with the 1 in 4 statistic, i would want to know what the two hipsters were hiding/forgetting from their own past or family.
Liz Dwyer said…
Thank you so much for weighing in on this subject. Thank you, thank, you, thank you.

I truly hate when I respond to comments and they go into the Blogger black hole -- but everything happens for a reason. I have to go work... I'll try to reply again later tonight.
MJ said…
There is a real problem with how we sexualize children and even view them as being truely capable of "wanting it". One of my law professors keeps going on about how the average american jury thinks a child can "consent" to sex at age 11 despite what the law says. When we live in a city/country that idealizes a pre-pubescient body as a standard of beauty for grown women is it any wonder we look away when confronted with abuse.
Ms Angela said…
I congratulate you for remaining detached enough to listen to that conversation. I'm running low on patience with such willful ignorance about such catastrophic, yet very prevalent problem--the sexual, physical, emotional and physical abuse of children. As someone who has attended numerous 12-step programs over the past 20 years and listened to many tear-filled stories of horrific abuse, I would have been tempted to march right up to those women and issue an on-the-spot attitude adjustment. Thank God I've only been exposed to teabagger and birthers' rants. And I just barely held my peace with them.

Thanks for posting about this, Liz. The more people talk about child abuse in all of its nasty forms,the more(hopefully)education will be dispensed among the ignorant.
nick said…
Liz, you should save your comments before you publish them, then if Blogger swallows them, you can just paste em back.
Jen said…
I remember your casting post.

I keep hearing rave reviews of the power of this movie. I guess I don't want to see it because like you, as a teacher, and in the neighborhood I grew up in, this wasn't something I wouldn't have heard of but I still get my heart. broken. every. time. another young child is completely shattered in this way.

I really should read Push.

And your points here are so well-taken. You can't possibly know what someone goes through without walking in their shoes.
Liz Dwyer said…
Sometimes I do save my comments first but I was in such a hurry I completely forgot. Sigh.

I sometimes get nervous when I'm alone with men on the street just out of common sense. I don't know if I'm going to get robbed, etc., and I've learned to never let my guard down.

I'd like there to be more direct conversation/education about this subject. Just like there's been more rape education in recent years, we need more child molestation education/prevention.

I hope it's a defense mechanism that made them say such things. People definitely blame the victim in all sorts of circumstances, but I just don't "get" what would make these two feel defensive.

You speak so much truth in your comments - I could write a whole page in reply. Yes, why is this issue not, a part of any school curriculum?

When you talk about the obstacles to being open and talking about your experiences...I think celebs like Oprah get more understanding than everyday folks when they want to talk about it. I wish your family's reaction if they knew about what happened to you would be different from what you antcipate. I wish you could know for sure that they'd shower you with love and compassion if you told them. -- thanks again for your comment. I'm gonna be thinking about your thoughts for awhile.

I'd wondered about the family but not about whether they were running from their own experiences. It could be.
Liz Dwyer said…
That's sick that people think consent can happen at the age of 11. But I'm not surprised because I always hear people making comments about "fast little girls" and "girls acting like they're grown".

The pre-pubescent body thing has been a pet peeve of mine for awhile. And when you get some of these porn stars who intentionally make themselves look like children/teens... it's pretty sick.

12 step programs... people use their addictions to try to make the pain they're feeling from sexual abuse go away. It's so sad. -- I'm good at listening to strangers and just writing down what folks say. Not so good at telling strangers what I think about their words. I don't know if that should change.

Yes, folks are talking Oscar for this film. It's a hard book to read and, having seen interviews with Sapphire the author, it's much more graphic than the film seems to be. You should read it, but yep, as a teacher, you've come across some of these situations before, unfortunately.
SMH said…
The ever increasing a seemingly endless level of total complete self absorbed, self centered, narrow minded delusional stuck on stupid as exhibited by those twits you overheard - has ceased to surprise which is sad. Face facts yes people can and in fact that &@%$! stupid. I too am rapidly losing patience with these complete idiots. More reason to pay less attention to what people think and be amazed on the rare occassions that they do actually think and reason independently - beinging to doubt that that is possible. I suppose those twits just hold onto that ish to avoid realizing that there but for grace could anyone at any time be subjected to unspeakable things that defy comprehension a prime example being the gang rape at Richmond High that no one wants to believe. Folks just do not want to face the fact that this rate of sexual abuse and violence is directly related to society becoming more self absorbed, self centered and feeling entitled and caring only for themselves and their needs.
Liz Dwyer said…
"there but for grace could anyone at any time be subjected to unspeakable things that defy comprehension"


The story of that gang rape at Richmond was just stunning. I haven't been able to write about it. I've been horrified by comments on sites saying stuff like, we weren't there, we don't know what the girl wanted, and she was probably freaky and wanted the guys to run a train on her and now is ashamed. It's just chilling.

I think you're spot on that this kind of thing is the result of the self-absorbed rampant individualism in this country. Our culture is full of the message that if it feels good, if I like it, if I want it, I'm gonna do it, even if it hurts someone else.
Lisa Blah Blah said…
I second you on the Richmond issue. I could not get it out of my mind for days - I felt sick to my stomach every time I thought about it. As parents of two girls, my husband and I talked about it (with each other, not with them) in the context of teaching them not to do things to put them at risk - as in, you do not go off with a boy or two boys to a dark place with a bottle, even if you think you're "friends." And before I get flamed, I am NOT saying this was this child's fault, and I am NOT saying bad things can't happen even when you're careful not to do things like that. I'm just saying all we can do as parents is try to help minimize the risk of it happening.

As for those hipsters: ecch, just save me from people like them. I probably would have sat there giving them the stink eye!
Liz Dwyer said…
I know what you're saying. There's a whole lot of things I'm going to tell my sons about what could happen to them. Even if our kids might be totally pure-hearted and innocent other people are not.

Hipsters... yeah, stink eye was needed.

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