What an excellent post! Should you ever push a person to disclose their abuse?
You might find this interesting. This is a partial quote from a lengthly review from India (the entire review is posted on this thread:A new book... ) of my book in which there was a ton of disclosures....
"The first way of dealing with abuse, they say, is to “speak out”: disclosure as a one time, one shot blowing the lid off abuse, because the law will take charge the moment we speak. Father’s Touch teaches us that disclosure is as multi-layered and multi textured as the violence itself, and the “law” [assuming of course that by that term we mean a secular law] hangs above, barely touching the surface, and even that reluctantly. We learn that the law also “copes” with family violence through dissociation, providing in the process little relief or opportunity for recuperation to survivors! In Donald’s case, the first disclosure was to his mother when he was ten, i.e., six and a half years after he began to be abused. The earliest disclosure outside the immediate family was soon after, when his older brother Ronnie told a doctor. The doctor replied: “You’re probably going to turn into a homosexual. Just be careful and don’t turn into a molester. It happens quite frequently,” and sent him home with his abuser and did nothing further.” [p.78]. Then Ronnie confides in the Elders of the religious community. “Their reaction: a mix of detachment, curiosity, and confirmation.” [pp.105-106]. Over a period of nine years approximately thirty people had been told about the abuse, including policemen, judges, attorneys, physicians and the Church Elders. And, when the survivors decided to press charges of assault, ...)
You get the drift, disclosing is just one (and a giant one at that)step...the process is multi-layered and complex. I know a thousand victims of sexual abuse...maybe 5 have disclosed. Why? I wrote this column on this very subject:
Why male victims don't tell?
By Donald D'Haene
As a survivor of sexual abuse, what strikes me as most ironic is the fact that male victims still remain nameless: ashamed of their experience even now, in 2002. Why should male victims be ashamed when our numbers are legion?
It's time we talk openly about child abuse and its prevention. But the fact is that men are ashamed of disclosing their experience with sexual abuse. They shouldn't be.
Almost two decades ago, I decided, along with four other victims (three male, one female), to charge our abuser. Since 1982, after going to court and public with our case, scores of men have disclosed their abuse to me but few have gone public. For every man like hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, there are thousands who remain silent. Why?
Our society cultivates feelings of shame in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Often an abuser is enabled to continue molesting by members of the community. For example, consider the protection that powerful institution, the church, provided our abuser, my father. My younger brother disclosed the abuse to our mother, two years later, my older brother confided in the ministers of our congregation. To report our abuse would have involved the Children's Aid Society, which would have removed us from our father's reach. Although our father was excommunicated by the congregation and our mother was publicly reproved for not reporting the incidents to the ministers earlier, we four children were sent back home with our abuser.
Therefore, although the congregation was protected, the abuser's children and the public at large were not. From the disclosures other victims have shared with me, my experience is not unusual in this regard.
But even people who truly care about victims add to the issue of personal shame. One minister and his wife told be it would be better if I change my name "because there is a bad sound to it now. It's connected to the abuser. People will think of him, not of you as his victim."
Another reason for silence is a concern for the feelings of the extended family. But I suggest disclosure may lessen the feelings of shame. Sometimes victims must listen to their abuser being praised as a fine pillar in the community. Silence perpetuates abuse.
I am not suggesting that court proceedings will not prove daunting. In our case, even though a conviction was achieved, I learned justice is a relative term. The judge, in his oral reasons for judgment, said, my "childhood must have been a hell on Earth," but he also found that my abuser, "is not now, in my opinion, in need of rehabilitation or reformation and is not now a danger to any member of the public." He said he based this on my father's lawyers' submissions and a psychiatric report which "shows clearly that there is no overt sign of mental illness."
How is it possible that a victim's recovery process involves years of therapy, ongoing issues such as sexual confusion and flashbacks, whereas an abuser can be deemed free of mental illness, and not in need of rehabilitation? Because in our case, the prosecutor never interviewed the victims, never asked if we wanted to testify, and had arranged a plea-bargain before the case went to trial. We had no opportunity to dispute or challenge any testimony.
Finally, the most common reason male victims feel shame is our culture's imposed guilt of homosexual contact. Unfortunately, sexual abuse of males is often labeled in this way instead of the criminal act it is.
Survival is a never-ending process. Our society still tries to silence victims. My abuser writes me: "It appears (I) am the only one whose lifestyle reflects that of the Almighty...I forgive you for all that you have done to me." But I encourage fellow victims and survivors to take charge of their destiny. Come forward, seek help and healing. For those who have the strength, fortitude and peer support, consider telling your story and seek legal counsel now. It is only by publicly bonding that we can truly feel we are not alone, not to blame and do not need to continue feeling shame.