If Sexually Victimized Adult Women Are Silent, How Can Child Victims Reveal?

WOW!  There is a striking list of the powerful, rich and famous men … Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Scott Hannity, Donald Trump, and Harvey Weinstein … who finally had been accused publicly of sexual harassment and victimization by a deluge of women!  As a man, a feminist, and a mental health professional, I am repulsed by and condemn their immoral, illegal, and unacceptable behaviors!

What are the reasons offered by their female accusers for their previous silence, sometimes remaining silent for many decades, about having been sexually harassed, assaulted, and raped?  More than 50 women have accused Bill Cosby of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them.  Some of Bill Cosby’s alleged victims explained their former silence: Victoria Valentino: “What kind of credibility did I have?”  Louisa Motiz: “You don’t want to upset me and the plans for your future, do you?”  Judy Huth: “… caused psychological damage and mental anguish”. Tama Green: “It is crushing and you are a victim all over again.”  Beth Ferrar: “… he allegedly said, We’ll never speak of this again.”  Beverly Johnson: “drugged … confused and disoriented”.  Barbara Bowman: “gaining her trust and becoming her mentor”. [1]

In 2017, women are breaking their silence about Harvey Weinstein.  Why were they secretive for so long?  Lucia Evans: “the shame in what happened”.  Asia Argento: “… has prompted years of guilt”.  Myra Sorvino: “felt afraid and intimidated”.  Emily Nestor: “I felt trapped”.  Emma de Caunis: “everyone’s too scared to say anything”.  Rosanna Arquette: “Weinstein’s power and reputation for vindictiveness”. [2]   Stars Ashley Judd, Gweneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie have now spoken up about Weinstein’s sexual attempts with them that paralleled the pattern of trap-and-mistreat that was described by the vulnerable women who were sexually abused by Harvey Weinstein.

The Chicago Tribune article of October 9th references the very consistent results in the March 2014 Iowa Law Review: “Disbelief assures that powerful men are reflexively believed when they scream foul at their accusers.  They may lambaste them as liars, cheats and gold-diggers, or ridicule and demean them as sluts.”[3]

So, I ask you — if bright, educated, usually attractive, verbally capable, and often successful women who have been sexually victimized have these feelings … and often have remained silent — how much more powerless must most children feel who are victims of child sexual abuse???  In a 2012 issue in Psychology Today, Dr. David Allen referenced Psychiatrist and author, Dr. Richard Kluft, MD, PhD, who listed several reasons for a child’s silence that vibrate similarly to those feelings and reasons for silence that are expressed by those adult victims: incomprehension, shame, fear of retaliation, the misperception that the child is to blame, and loyalty conflicts.[4]

Children and teenagers who are sexually abused, in 93% of cases, are betrayed by people whom they know, folks who have power over them.[5]  As I indicate in the “Introduction” to There Is Hope!, “while our society is warning children about ‘strangers’, we are still not accepting the well documented reality and providing them with adequate information about the dangers from molestation, rape, and incest by the ‘non-stranger’.  These have been the titles of some of the “trusted roles” …

  • “Father”               “Mother”        “Brother”        “Sister”                   “Grandfather”
  • “Step-Father”      “Uncle”            “Cousin”         “Mom’s Live-in Boy Friend”
  • “Foster brother” “Babysitter”   “Neighbor”     “Family Friend”   “Doctor”
  • “Teacher”            “Clergyman”   “Coach”           “Scout Leader”    “Counselor”
  • “Policeman”        “Fireman”       “Bus Drive”       …

… the titles of the “trusted roles” of the vast majority of perpetrators whose innocent victims we therapists have assisted in their healing in our counseling practices, agencies, and institutions. [6]

Now is the opportunity … the time is long overdue … for us to make positive changes in our societal pattern of sexualizing children and marginalizing women.  We need to end our culture of silence, initiate a more open dialogue, provide improved sex-education, and teach the next generations of us males that girls and women are equally valuable humans who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.  “If not now, When?”

[1] http://www.etonline.com/news/154160_timeline_of_bill_cosby_sexual_assault_allegations

[2] https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/from-aggressive-overtures-to-sexual-assault-harvey-weinsteins-accusers-tell-their-stories

[3] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-sex-assault-weinstein-cosby-1010-story.html   Drawn from the Internet 10/11/2017.

[4] www.psychologytoday.com/blog/matter-personality/201210/why-dont-child-sex-abuse-victims-tell  Drawn from Internet 10/11/2017.

[5] https://www.rainn.org/statistics/children-and-teens  Drawn from the Internet 10/11/2017.

[6] Rosenfield, Herbert Jay. There Is Hope! Practices and Interventions for Successful Treatment of Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse ©. “Introduction”.  Book in progress 2017.

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