She lies in the darkness, waiting for a hero. Will this be a night of creaks in the hallway? She’s not allowed to scream, not allowed to tell anyone.
She doesn’t know about sex but she knows her body is something to be used by another. She’s 9. Only I can’t find her. She will grow up joining the growing group of unreported sexual child abuse. No one will come, no one will save her.
Here in North America we like to see ourselves as a land of heroes, people who believe in superheroes. But there is one crime that we, as a society, don’t like to talk about: sexual child abuse and incest. There are tens of thousands of cases of forced incest and all wilkepedia can say is two sentences. Incest is sex between family members that it is illegal to marry.
And though we don’t talk about it, or make movies about it, child sexual abuse goes on, flourishing in silence. In the last 30 years the number of rapes in the US has dropped to 1/10th of what it was due to campaigns of “No means No,” sex education and greater sensitivity to rape victims. In the same period sexual child abuse has, depending on the study, either remained the same or risen 88%-130% (in the decade 1980-1990 reported cases increased over 300%). Of course it is difficult to get statistics because the last comprehensive study in the US was done almost 10 years ago. Sexual child abuse and incest are THE highest unreported crime from reasons of threats, fear, fear of breaking up the family to simply living in a religious/authoritarian setting. Over 50% of those who initially tell an adult will not be believed.
I made a promise; a belief, that I would stop it. I’m failing. Late at night, I stand at the window, listening for them. Because a child is hoping to be found. In the US another child is being sexual abused every 2 minutes. 1 out of 7 of them are aged 6 or under. Childwelfare in their last study estimated 200,000 cases in the US annually, and a same number per capita in Canada. Only 31% of these sexual abuses will result from strangers. In Canada 61% of ALL reported sexual assaults will be youth or children.
We may not be sexual abusers ourselves, but we are culpable. We all are part of a society that would rather maintain the image of sexual purity than sexual abuse. And when sexual abuse is socially raised, it is in flash waves of hatred toward the 31% of strangers who sexually abuse - “Kill the pedophiles” the people cry, leaving their children home to a higher instance of forced incest; from siblings, cousins, uncles and step-parents (natural fathers are only 4% of reported incest cases).
I waited 20 years for anyone in the church I attended to say, to print, or to indicate in any way that those “Christian children precious in the eyes of God” shouldn’t be abused. Or that it happened. Or that it was bad. President Bush, riding on the shoulders of Christian is promoting abstinence and purity as the solution to all problems for teens. $3 billion this year from the US for abstinence and “Faith-based” AIDS programs. How much for, “Not getting raped at night by uncle”? We know that 66% of sexually abused prostitutes were abused by fathers, step-fathers or foster fathers. And we do human trials on prostitutes to see which ones die faster on different AIDS medications, or which trial groups infect faster. Disassociation isn’t just done by children being abused, it is also done by societies wanting to believe that prostitutes and abusers appear from nowhere at all.
“Talking about incest is a bigger taboo than incest itself” (Patricia D. McClendon) Isn’t that the truth? I talked to a doctor today about child abuse and incest and his comment on the US, “They don’t have any do they? Have they admitted it yet?” In his experience, people feel ashamed because they have reason to; if you say you were abused, people will pull away. There is something so scary about the idea that we will sacrifice children annually to live in a society that doesn’t have to face incest’s existence. There will be no “break the silence” school day for incest or child sexual abuse because no one wants to put on that t-shirt. I don’t. I do, but I'm too ashamed to.
Millions debate over whether a stripper has a right to say, “No means No” in a country that has Father-daughter purity balls where girls pledge their sexuality to their father to keep until handing over to her husband. The FCC and the Parents Television Council work to keep mention of teenage sex off the TV, Churches teach girls and boys that the worst thing they can be is not a virgin. Conservative groups work to keep gay-straight alliances out of schools on the premise that 14 year olds don’t need to know about sex. And already another two children have been sexually assaulted since you started this piece. There are no telethons, there are no national programs, no walk-a-thons, no “no-child-left behind” programs, no national fundraising or public sharing and awareness. RAINN (the Rape abuse and incest national network) operates a help-line and links and works largely alone: abused children aren’t like panda’s; they aren’t cute or cuddly, they aren’t going to be displayed in a white house photo shoot.
We don’t know what to say so we say nothing at all. That’s not good enough.
Show me a land of heroes. Find her.
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