Monday, May 25, 2020

Nothing Shocking, Except Childhood Sexual Abuse

On Monday, I shared my own story here. The Herman Cain, and especially the Jerry Sandusky charges both prompted me to write a more detailed account of the sexual abuse I experienced in childhood. The accusers in both cases all have something in common, that beyond some aspect or another of unwanted, non-consensual sexual acts. The accused are alive and able to face the allegation.

The man who molested me is dead. He has been deceased for many years. I don’t think he was ever formally charged with anything, since the family never publicly acknowledged the abuse. In an effort to try to speak to the part of me that cries out for justice, I’ve considered many options. I’ve even wondered whether confronting the other party who was himself abused might provide further answers and needed context. However, no person-to-person interaction could be potentially more awkward and emotionally combustible. He may not want to recall or to remember, and I don’t want to impinge upon his privacy.

In the context of some retroactive legal proceeding, of course, requesting information in this fashion might make some sense. However, he and I have not talked in over a decade. We were never friends. Being that we were both innocent participants in a coerced act, silence and evasiveness typified our behavior towards each other. At the ballpark, at school, or around town, we avoided each other consciously. Should our paths ever cross by coincidence, we never made eye contact. The two of us harbored a terrible secret, one I think he could not help but remember more fully because of his proximity to the source. His own father was the abuser.

My post of Monday did not spell out specifics because I don’t want to be seen as adding any element of needless sensation to what was already horrific enough. Here, for the sake of comprehension, I will be a little more specific. If you want to get technical about it, the exact term is called child-on-child sexual abuse. The two of us were forced, or at least emotionally manipulated into performing a sex act on each other. There was more to it than that, but this is enough for now. Factor in an aspect of inter-sibling incest, itself its own abuse, this between older and younger brother. Knowing this, one can now see the complexities.

The patterns and particulars of abuse involving an older adult perpetrator and a dysfunctional family are never simple. I’ve since read that these things are, depressingly enough, both extremely common and among the least reported. Should a stranger be involved, we have no emotional connection to the assailant. So we’re more comfortable with breaking our complicit silence in that circumstance. With family members, however, this is not quite so easily accomplished.

In the end, who started it is important, but is only one part of achieving some resolution. The direction that child sexual abuse takes afterward is also crucial. Children often mimic and act out on other kids what has been done to them. Should they be under the age of twelve or so, as I was, they are not old enough in their own sexual maturation to make sense of what happened. For me, personally, my brain decided to use disassociation to forcibly block out much of what happened. I think the other boy involved, who was also my age, may have had so many other experiences that he remembers more than I do. After all, I lived three or four houses down. He had to live with it on a daily basis.

In my last post on this topic, I was critical of how we submerge and leave criminal acts like these unreported. Yet, it was once much worse. Second-wave feminists of the 1960’s and 1970’s are to be commended for providing a safe space for women to talk about rape and sexual assault. Their work has made it possible for both men and women to feel comfortable telling their stories. What we may see now is the beginning of a generational shift for the better. It may be further possible to confront these details, which still retain their ability to shock, disgust, anger, and sicken. Nothing may be sacred anymore, but perhaps fewer things are too taboo to even be discussed.

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