Speaking Out About Abuse Helps Survivors Heal

Speaking Out Against Abuse Helps Survivors HealMatthew Sandusky, a 33-year-old survivor of sexual abuse, decided to speak out about being sexually abused as a child. The question he faced at the outset was a familiar one for all survivors of childhood sexual abuse, “Why speak now after so many years?”

The question is an important one because many people don’t realize how difficult it is for a victim of child sexual abuse to speak out about the abuse at all, ever. An estimated 300,000 children are sexually abused each year. This is an estimate because many of those who suffer abuse remain silent and never come forward.

Child sexual abuse isn’t something that happened in the past and is now resolved, as many of the institutions that covered up abuse argue. It is happening right now in our own communities. When we challenge victims about why they speak out so many years after the abuse, we perpetuate the atmosphere of doubt and secrecy that kept them silent for so long

As Matthew Sandusky states so eloquently,

Defending victims of childhood sexual abuseOver the first 33 years of my life, I have been told constantly how to feel, what to do or not do, and what to say or not say. The interview, along with Peaceful Hearts Foundation, was my way of taking back control of my life while empowering others to do the same. . .

The mission of Peaceful Hearts Foundation, which Kim and I founded, is to increase awareness of sexual abuse through the media and community events, as well as educational and informational campaigns that empower survivors and communities to work collaboratively to make disclosure easier for survivors.

We want to raise survivors’ voices as a step toward recognizing, acknowledging, and addressing their traumatic experiences. We believe all survivors deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We also believe it’s going to take a broad-based movement to end child sexual abuse.

If we are serious about tackling this epidemic, we must pay more attention to the ways abusers operate and to where abuse happens. We can’t be afraid to report it whenever and wherever we see it. And we all must begin the tough process of speaking about child sexual abuse. We can no longer revictimize and shame survivors due to our inability to face the traumatic experiences they’ve been through.

Nor can it continue to be acceptable to attack survivors’ character. We cannot end sexual abuse without the voices of survivors, and we will not have those voices if that type of destructive behavior persists. When survivors are attacked, it adds to the complex problems they are already experiencing.

The first thing we can all do is to believe a child (or adult survivor) when they summon the courage to tell us about their abuse. Secondly, we can’t view childhood sexual abuse as someone else’s problem or the problem for government and public institutions to resolve. We have to stand up and advocate on behalf of survivors. Matthew Sandusky’s interview is a step in the right direction.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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