For survivors of childhood sexual abuse, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day living and to forget about helping others. David Pittman is here to ask, “What are you willing to do?”
A Black opera singer, a religion/philosophy major and homecoming queen walk into a bar. No, it’s not the beginning of a tired joke, nor did they actually walk into a bar. Actually, they and about 5-6 other people from equally different backgrounds sat in a student center of a private, liberal arts university. This conglomeration of typical American diversity decided to call themselves “The Breakfast Club.” Those of you old enough to get the movie reference will appreciate what they meant. For those that don’t, all you need to know is this: what they were, what they thought they knew and what they would all eventually become would not always be what they anticipated, assumed or expected. Life is full of surprises that way.
For those, who at the age of 18, declare themselves as Religion/Philosophy majors, the irony in it is that they think they know it all already. And yes, I speak from personal experience. What I learned over the next 7 years was that I not only didn’t know it all, I hardly knew a thing. And to this very day I am constantly learning more and seeing things as I never have before. Thank goodness for that!
How sad would it be to have at 18 the complete understanding of all humanity. What a burden to bear with so little skills as yet gained. Over those 7 years I lived a couple of lifetimes. The college years are like that for most. Like a whole other life. It’s where most learn what they really believe, as opposed to what mommy and daddy told them. Some fall in lockstep with traditional roles: doctors, lawyers, teachers.
Then there’s the rest of us. Those who didn’t figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up. I thought I had. Finished with a degree in journalism. Was going to charge hell with a squirt gun and take on all the worlds wrongs and injustices. I felt the “pen was mightier than the sword” philosophy would serve me well as i headed into the profession of broadcasting and journalism. Silly thing happened along the way. Got a shocking jolt of reality. People, at least those in power, don’t really want some sniveling nosed youngster stirring the pot and messing things up. Then a very sad thing happened. I, like so many others, got disillusioned. You think to yourself, it doesn’t really matter what I do because nothing’s going to change.
So we settle. We settle for a “job” that pays bills. We settle for a spouse who will tolerate us. We settle for an apartment because we don’t want to sacrifice what it would take to get a house. We settle, we settle, we settle. Any of this sound familiar? What happened to those dreams and aspirations of our youth? Of being a marine biologist, or a romance novelist or whatever your big idea was? We got disillusioned and settled. Screw that Carpe Diem BS, I got a power bill to pay!
Then 1 year becomes 5. 1 kid becomes 3. And now you’re 20 years down the road, kids almost grown, and you’ve quite rightly “settled” in to this life. So what now. And why now? Why now are all those thoughts from my childhood creeping back into my mind? Why? Because now there’s nothing to distract me. No midnight keg party, no late night rendezvous, no diapers to change, no soccer practices, no business luncheons, no nothing. Just me and my thoughts.
Now I have the time to remember all the vile things done to me by my abuser. And the really, REALLY crappy thing about it…it’s too late to prosecute them. For you see, back in “our” day the statute of limitations ran out by the time we were 18, or maybe 23 in some places. But it’s too late now. So why bother? Why? Because as you sit here reading this, and as I’m writing it, they are probably already grooming another little “you” and another little “me”. Pedophiles don’t stop. They don’t get fixed. There is no cure.
I still have the majority of those friends who called themselves “The Breakfast Club”. I’m blessed in that. And even more so, they all have been willing to join me in this fight to protect children and help survivors of abuse. So, it took me a little longer than most to figure out what I was going to be when I grew up. Better late than never, right?
So it’s up to me, it’s up to you, it’s up to all of us as adults to stop them. To do what those children can’t do for themselves: speak up. Name your abuser, if it’s a possibility. Tell anyone who is in earshot who they are, what they did and warn those around them. If it’s not something that can be done, then reach out to other survivors to help them. Help educate the public and those around you about child sexual abuse (CSA). The children of this generation deserve our protection. And I’m not asking you to do something I’ve not been willing to do myself. I have made sure all those who are around my abuser know EXACTLY what he did to me and many other little boys. Please keep in mind that I’m only asking this of those who are in a healthy enough place to do so. Not those who have just come to terms with what happened.
And I’m asking the same of every person reading this who wasn’t a victim of CSA, but wants to know what they can do to help. Extend your reach to help groups like ours and others, volunteer your time, give of your talents, your resources, whatever you have at your disposal to help those in need.
And once you have gotten to that place of strength and confidence, ask yourself…
…as Sean Connery told Kevin Costner in the movie “The Untouchables” when all hell was about to break loose…
”What are you prepared to do?”
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