Note to new readers: The following is in response to a previous article entitled, “Repressed Memories of Sexual Abuse.”
I grew up in a community where everything I did was connected to church. My life and my church were so intertwined that there was no difference to me. I didn’t attend a religious school, but all of my friends at school were from the same church; I was restricted from many school activities because they were against my religion; my behavior and ways of dress were regulated by what I believed to be common church rules; and all life milestones, holidays, and celebrations were tied into customs and traditions that had a very strong religious component.
It’s fine. I have absolutely no animosity towards any of that or the people from the tribe. That is how I was raised, and I appreciate the strong moral and ethical beliefs that were instilled into me because of my upbringing.
I want to be clear about that, because it is not, and never has been, my intention to blame the church as an institution for any sexual abuse that goes on.
I also want to be clear that—similar to many many people who I know—church was a very strong, influential part of my identity for most of my life so it’s impossible to talk about any aspect of my life without the church being part of it.
Yes, sexual abuse happens everywhere, in many different types of communities. I think that’s a sad fact we can all agree on. It’s one thing to hear on the news that there are children being sold into sex slavery in Cambodia. That is horrifying—but sounds far away. There doesn’t seem to be anything that we can do. So we feel bad and then move on.
But it’s another thing to be confronted with the fact that this is happening in our own backyards. In our own houses. It is not abstract and far away.
Unfortunately, we have a hard time talking about difficult subjects. I’d like us to get better at it.
I can’t speak for other communities, religious or not, but since I’m a part of it, I can speak for people from the tribe who have talked to me, and there is a huge problem with sexual abuse going un-reported—for many reasons. Sometimes the child it happened to doesn’t know how to talk about it, or feels great shame around it, or the parents don’t know that it happened or don’t know what to do if they suspect it happened.
My own church community is not the only place this happens, but it is yet another place. Church people aren’t immune, not even from other people who go to church. What I’m trying to do is bring this issue home, so more people can relate. I want everyone to feel a personal responsibility to act. The way to do that is to tell the truth—that a place I believed to be safe was a place where known sexual predators walked amongst little kids.
I can’t speak for much of the past. All I have is hearsay—and I’m not trying to place blame anyway. What I’m trying to do is usher us into a future that is free from sexual abuse, and in the process help those who’ve been abused find healing and closure.
Please continue to comment. Practice speaking up.
If you have a story you would like to share, please send me a private message, or you can fill out the following anonymous form. In coming weeks, I will help foster the conversation. Additionally, I can guide you to some trusted sources for help if that’s what you’re looking for.
You can also leave a regular blog comment down below, or post to my Facebook wall. The important thing is, if you have something to say, please say it.
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