Can we Stop Second-Guessing Possible Victims of Child Abuse?

2014-02-07 05:16

"That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up. I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls."

That was the excerpt which struck me the most from Dylan Farrow's now infamous open letter. I too was once a victim of sexual molestation. Unfortunately I only found the courage to speak out once my abuser was long gone and beyond the reach of the law.

Today, I find it difficult not to berate myself for not taking more affirmative action against the perpetrator while I had the chance. To be fair I was only ten years of age and quite unaware of the bigger picture. His absence alone gave me immense relief. It did not cross my mind that what had been inflicted upon me could very well be inflicted upon another child.

For the past week I have tried very hard to be objective and unbiased about this ugly business involving Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow.

My silent observation has given me time to review the facts and evidence which have been brought to the table. Honestly, the more I weigh in the stories from both sides, the more I am tempted to believe the initial feeling in my gut.

Do I think Woody Allen is guilty of child-abuse? Well after viewing sketchy statements which have been brought to light, I certainly would not put such acts past him. After all, he said himself that he is below reproach when it comes to sex.

Do I think a grown and happily married woman would fabricate a scandalous tale at the risk of  being globally scrutinized and humiliated? Honestly, I fail to see what anyone would stand to gain from lying about being molested.

There are many myths surrounding child abuse, and I have seen a couple of them held in the fore-front by numerous, outraged, die-hard fans of Woody Allen.

Myth 1: It's only abuse if it's violent.

It's important to recognize that sexual abuse doesn't always involve body contact. Exposing a child to sexual situations or material is sexually abusive, whether or not touching is involved.

When I was sexually assaulted, I was not roughly penetrated in a manner easily detectable in a medical lab. However, there is such a thing as gentle coercion and manipulation. Children are naturally more vulnerable, and can easily cave in under the authority of an adult, especially if taught to obey and respect their elders without question.

Although I was fortunate enough to never get raped, I was fondled and exposed to the sick tendencies of a man old enough to be my father.

Myth 2: Most child abusers are strangers.

This misconception is perhaps the most absurd and dangerous of all. I'll bet the blind acceptance of this bullshit in mainstream society has sexual predators laughing everywhere.

In my personal experience, the perpetrator was a well-known, family friend. He was charming, popular, and charismatic. Most people who knew him were chums, and even children were drawn to him because he was animated, lively, and energetic.

This enabled him to win over the trust of vulnerable youngsters (myself included), until such a time that he could corner them, away from the watchful eyes of their parents. Do you honestly think a menacing, socially awkward, and unpleasant person would be able to achieve this?

Society really needs to stop living in denial and own up to the reality that predators are everywhere. Anyone, no matter how well they may conduct themselves in public, is capable of murder behind closed doors.

Some have argued that Dylan was emotionally disturbed when relating her alleged experiences. That may be so, but I cannot help but ask why.

One of the main symptoms of trauma following sexual abuse is a difficulty in processing, regulating, and expressing emotions. This could very well be the reason why her allegations sounded inconsistent.

As a survivor, I'll be one to testify that it is never easy to publicly discuss the experience of being abused in a sexual manner. This is especially true in a non-supportive environment.

The discomfort of mentally reliving such dreadful memories can often cause a certain vagueness of expression because the mind is reluctant to deal with the clarity of past trauma.

This is why I cannot stress enough the importance of offering support to victims of molestation.

I have long ago chosen not to be a victim of circumstance, but what infuriates me the most is that we live in a world where sexual predators thrive, while the rest of us who were violated against our will have no other choice but to survive or lose all sanity.

When people ignorantly rise in defence of a perpetrator's public persona, this frightens victims into remaining silent. There are so many of us who have never received closure because of our prolonged silence, or society's failure to act on our behalf.

When I timidly began to speak up about what had happened to me, the reaction I received was dismissive, and what I believe Dylan experienced. I was cross-questioned to the point where I wondered if I was exaggerating the events in my head.

"No! Really? Are you sure you weren't just imagining it? He's such a nice guy! You're still young, but you need to realize the lasting impact your accusations will have on his reputation! Think carefully about what you're saying."

I kid you not, all of the above (and then some) was included in the interrogations I had to endure from numerous individuals. No one (except my friends who were also victims of the same predator) seemed to take  into account that I was a ten-year-old child with literally fuck-all to gain from making a false accusation.

Why are victims of sexual molestation almost always placed on trial when they come forward about the hell they have had to endure?

Of course, none of us will never know for sure whether or not Woody Allen is guilty of the allegations against him, but when I look back on my own experiences, and that of countless others, I cannot help but wonder. This has also renewed my awareness of just how concealed the darkness of a person's character can be. We must never be too quick to assume that someone is incapable of committing heinous acts simply because they are so well-loved, admired, and adored.    

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