In the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on clergy child sex abuse, 900 survivors have called a hotline launched by the attorney general’s office.
PA Clergy Abuse Hotline: 888-538-8541
For many, that call was the first time they shared their abuse.
I vividly remember the first time our pediatrician went over good touch/bad touch with my toddler-aged daughter during a routine exam in 2000. It took me by surprise. The doctor explained it was part of her training and protocol. It was a simple protective measure that hadn’t occurred to me.
Growing up in the 80s, there wasn’t an ABC afterschool special titled, “The Day Father Mark Molested Me.” It wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I knew kids were abused, but I thought it was really rare and happened somewhere else.
It took the release of the 2011 Grand Jury Report about the clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to hit home – literally. I couldn’t understand why the world, or at least my part of the world, wasn’t more shaken.
Many of the survivors were my age and grew up within miles. After suffering in silence for years, they were telling loved ones and strangers that they’d lived a lie by omission – and by necessity.
There’s a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction when it comes to surviving child sex abuse. The disbelief, rejection, stigma and additional trauma of disclosure has to be weighed against the hope for acceptance, support and healing.
It may finally be easier to choose the latter. I sense a cultural shift since the latest grand jury report, the Me Too movement and widespread media coverage of sex abuse.
According to therapists, when those who endure trauma share their story out loud, it helps them acknowledge it. Then healing can begin, but only if those listening really hear them.
It’s become loud and clear. Public awareness and support is growing. Maybe even more important, survivors know their numbers now. The percentage of the population is staggeringly high.
Neither Kathy or I are survivors, but the statistical odds tell us that someone we love is a survivor or will become one. Neither is an acceptable circumstance. Support and protect.