There is no beginning of all this, and, realistically, no end either. Childhood sexual abuse is as old as Time of course, and it’s hard to imagine we will ever reach a point of ultimate awareness, when these crimes are universally prevented.
However. There are times when revolution — evolution even — brings us to the point of important change, personally and in society. My own story began 46 years ago, at age 11. I attempted therapy first at 17 years old, then at 21 therapy became necessary. I have been in and out of therapy more or less ever since — mostly to do with the legacy of sexual abuse, but also around the legacy of neglect which led me to that point, and because as a result of everything I struggle to make maps and models in my life; I don’t recognise stability. And good therapists, I have found, can make good role models, good parents, and help you listen to and locate your best self.
Despite all this therapy and integration of my selves, it is only in the last two years or so I have felt the pull to activism around childhood sexual abuse (CSA). And only recently have I become aware of a groundswell of activism and art which bears witness to CSA and which is working hard to raise awareness of CSA.
A fact everyone needs to know is this: about 90% of ALL childhood sexual abuse is committed by someone THE CHILD KNOWS. The majority of these offences is committed by a family member. The rest are perpetrated by a trusted family friend.
My abuse was perpetrated by a family member. Most people I am in touch with who have been abused were abused by a family member. Yet: as widespread as they are, these instances are not highlighted by the media as part of anti sexual assault and violence against women campaigns. Lived experiences of CSA are not featured in symposia or conferences. Indeed, they rarely make it into print or art that is widely consumed.
Shame and silencing, awkwardness, disgust, horror… these things stop CSA at the door. To those who have not experienced abuse or do not love someone who has been abused — CSA can feel like Too Much Information, too yucky, like it belongs somewhere else, just not HERE.
To those who have been abused, HERE is all there is, and what must be carried, with all the accompanying shame and disgust and fury. And we are everywhere. A conservative estimate by the NSPCC states that 1 in 20 children in the UK are being or have been sexually abused. That’s at least one in every classroom. Think about that. Please.
We have got to open our eyes. We have got to help each other. We have got to protect children. The time is now folks.