Imagine a happy family - church going every Sunday and at least one night a week for bible study or youth group. Active in the military community, had friends over for games and dinner. Bowled in the base couple league. Went on military sponsored trips as a family. Vacations, holidays, and other activities like any other family would do.
The lights would go off and this US Military Officer, ex-Marine, educated degreed, top security clearance - would take off his mask and become a rapist, pedophile, master manipulator, angry, violent violator.
He would take advantage of his position as father and he would threaten and use scare tactics to get what he wanted. He groomed us. He wanted to make sure that we would play the game and we would do what he wanted. He wanted to make sure that he would never be found out.
And us...young innocent children didn't know any better. What we did know was that this man controlled us, we had no way to put words to what was happening for anyone to be able to understand, because we didn't understand.
We were children. When children are faced with a situation that is overwhelming, where there is no escape or way out, children learn to "go away" in their head. That is what I did. Like watching a movie, it was as though I was watching everything that was happening to me from a distance. This aides in why details aren't remembered fully. Somewhat like an out of body experience.
I was afraid, I was afraid of the threats that he made. As I got older I was afraid that no one would believe me. I was also very afraid of the consequences for myself and for my abuser.
I would blame myself, as I got older. Why didn't I stop it, why hadn't I spoken up, why, why why. Shame and blame drive silence and when you are a child, you are held captive - not only by the abuse, but by all the emotions and thoughts in your head.
I am sharing all this - because we have to change - we have to understand that abusers are not slimey scum people from the gutter.
Child sexual abusers are everyday people. Larry Nassar (gymnastics doctor), Don Delosh (US Army Officer), Mike Tyson (boxer), Jerry Sanduski (Penn State Football), Jared Fogle (Subway), priests, pastors, coaches, lawyers, military, teachers, scout leaders and the list goes on. These are everyday people with everyday lives. Some are famous, some aren't.
We as a society and the world, need to take the time to listen and believe. Not question, not victim-blame, but we need to take a step back and truly listen and believe.
Things not to say to someone (adult or child) who is breaking the silence of their abuse:
1. Why didn't you say something sooner.
2. Of course he/she loved you, why would they ever do that to you?
3. Fathers have a special kind of love for their first born daughters.
4. Did you do anything that could have been misinterpreted?
5. What were you wearing?
6. Did you ask for it?
7. Why didn't you stop them?
It is time for us to break the norms, it is time for us to realize abusers come in all shapes and sizes, all types of careers, all types of backgrounds, all types of communities - they can and do easily look like the perfect person in the community. We have to stop - pay attention and BELIEVE SURVIVORS.
“Being quiet and hidden is no longer an option.” – pennie