Why Is It So Hard To Speak Openly About Child Sexual Abuse?

The office was as dull as the weather outside, grey walls, grey desks. My colleagues and I chatted about nothing as we pulled phones, chargers, snacks, out of our bags for the day ahead.

Then as I turned on my computer, a wrecking ball of vitriol flew out of the screen, slamming into my chest and pinning me against the wall.

‘I wish i had your phone number rather than sending this email.’

A message from an older family member, someone I’d trusted and liked for over 50 years, now threatening me.

‘What i am hearing about your latest actions leaves me speechless.’

I had broken the family code of silence. After decades of threats, gaslighting and blame being thrust so far down my throat that the pain had become too much to bear, I had projectile vomited the sexual abuse I had suffered into the open for all to see.

‘There is no point in asking you to drop the matter now is it because i realise that this is your whole raison d ,etre. From being sympathetic i now realise you are a cruel heartless woman who can only deal with your own inadequises [sic] by destroying others.’

The sympathy I elicited for the repeated sexual assaults I suffered as a child, had been dependent on my silence. And it’s silence that child molesters depend on to offend, and indeed, had enabled my grandfather to offend against me. Hence I had taken the huge and terrifying step to waive my anonymity and lay bare my darkest moments. Turning my negative experiences into positive action to benefit society, benefited me too as part of my healing. But my relative thought it was all about him.

‘And your “friend” so helpful and supportive to you. ? What is he in all this ? Let me guess – Probably married maybe with children ? What is he getting from all this -your friendship? It would be laughable if it wasnt so tragic.’

A desperate attempt to hurt me. It failed. But he is blaming me, instead of the perpetrator, for the crimes committed against me and the consequences thereof that are causing him anguish.

‘I am glad you are hiding behind other names as you are unfit to have our name – you are a true outcast and i hope never to hear your name again.’

My relative is unaware that I ditched the paedophile’s family name as soon as I became an adult over 30 years ago. But I am indeed an outcast, I was outcast for being an uncomfortable reminder of the truth.

It was comments such as the above that pushed me to estrange myself from my family, a family where children were taken to visit a known paedophile and reputation was valued above child protection. A family where I don’t belong.

But it was also comments such as these that pushed me to fight for justice and to raise awareness of child sexual abuse. Because although most people understand how horrific this crime is, few understand that the accompanying emotional abuse can be as harmful as the abuse itself.

‘I will ring your mum and dad to tell them how i feel , but of course it would not matter a jot to you’

Indeed, I am no longer a powerless and voiceless child. I will no longer play ‘happy families’ for the comfort of the family that protected themselves at my expense.

As I reach the end of the email, the wrecking ball gently pops, releasing me and showering colourful confetti onto the grey carpet. Because the email had nothing to do with me.

It was about my relative’s fear that the noxious family secret had been exposed and his inability to accept that the person the family had tried so hard to protect, was a dangerous serial paedophile. But it was mostly about his rage, because he didn’t have the power to silence me.

He had simply sent me a message to inform me that he wasn’t the genial relative I had thought he was, but instead an abusive, entitled and selfish bully.

And that was useful to know.

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