HOUSTON, Tx., December 17, 2011 — Passage from When Jonathan Cried for Me by Carter Lee:
[During a session with my psychiatrist] I began to speak and broke the last moment of silence that I would have before beginning my new passage in life.
“I know why I have anger issues and suffer so much internally….I was sexually abused and molested as a child by my next-door neighbor over a period of a few years….I know it’s not my fault, and I know it explains a lot about my personality. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to get healthy and how to get rid of my anger.”
“You’re my favorite type of patient, Carter, because you’re in touch with the root causes of your issues. You are basically asking me, where do I take this information from here? The more you get in touch with [what you went through], the more the anger will subside. How do you feel when you express this issue with your loved ones?”
I replied, “I don’t discuss this with anyone….This happened to me; life goes on. Why dwell on it? I can’t change it.”
“You’ve never sought help about this?” he asked in amazement.
He then said something that really hit home with me. “Carter, you haven’t allowed yourself to be a victim even though you are. Until you admit that you were and are a victim, you can’t get better. What happened to you is a travesty!”
That was the moment that I broke my silence, but so many sexually abused never do. They don’t seek help, and they don’t talk about it. Society for a number of reasons doesn’t like discussing this horrific issue.
But the silence must end.
Teaming up with Pamela Pine, PhD, MPH, Founder, Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse, Inc. (Stop the Silence), an organization designed to end child sexual abuse (CSA) by raising awareness, preventing CSA, and helping survivors heal, a portion of my proceeds from my speaking engagements and my book go to this remarkable organization.
Dr. Pine is an international health and development specialist who has worked and continues to work globally on some of the world’s most pressing problems like coca use prevention in Ecuador, Hansen’s disease (leprosy) treatment and control in Yemen and Ethiopia, child survival in the Congo, and HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis control, and many other health issues affecting, primarily, the underserved in the world (she is employed currently by the Panagora Group).
I recently spoke with Dr. Pine in an interview to help raise awareness.
Q: Please tell us how you got involved in founding Stop the Silence
Pine: Stop the Silence began in 2002 as a coalition of multi-ethnic and state groups that came together to address CSA. I was shocked when I learned some of the statistics: more than 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time they are 18; and that 95% of teen prostitutes, 60% of teen moms, 73% of runaway girls, and 32% of men and women incarcerated for murder were sexually abused as children.
Child Sex Abuse can have extremely severe consequences, including decreased school performance, delinquency, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, anti-social behaviors, incarceration, promiscuity, and teen pregnancy; it can lead to PTSD, depression, and physical abuse like cutting, suicide and homicide. So I wanted to spread awareness and address the pandemic and the critical need for comprehensive programming for this very complex issue.
Today, our programming includes media advocacy, training, community outreach and education, and support for survivor healing and empowerment.
Q: From what I understand, you run on a very small staff and also rely on volunteers.
Pine: Yes, we do have a small staff, a great Board of Directors and volunteers, which we are always in need of. The Chairman of the Board of Directors is Mark Williams, who is a survivor. In fact, a number of people on our staff and volunteers are also survivors, in addition to being extremely accomplished men and women. So we really have a great team focused on this cause.
Q: Why do you think so many remain silent?
Pine: CSA occurs primarily within families and communities, and is perpetrated by those who the child knows well and who have access to the child or children. It’s hard enough to speak out against a stranger who abuses them (fear, shame, stigma all play roles), but what happens when it’s Uncle John or your father? Often the abused are groomed and made to feel responsible, ashamed and scared, and they worry too about how this will impact their family.
Q: The numbers you mentioned earlier are astounding. Children are so near and dear to our heart. Why are people not talking about this more?
Pine: There are a lot of reasons. Overall we are still a conservative society across the broad fifty states, and it’s still taboo to talk about sex, and sexuality. Also, people are worried and scared about what CSA in their mist is going to say about their family or community.
And we don’t want to hear about it; so when kids come forward, adults often don’t or don’t want to believe them. We need, though, to recognize this as the public health problem it is, and to learn the signs of CSA and learn how to become involved.
Some signs of abuse may include a dramatic change in a child’s behavior like withdrawal and depression; cruelty to animals; explicitly sexualized behavior. If these things occur, listen to the child. We know that children don’t make up child sexual abuse. Keep the conversation about this tough issue going both with children (in an age appropriate way) and other adults. Then report known or suspected child abuse to child abuse hotlines or by calling 9-1-1 or specialized hotlines. Get informed about which prevention policies should be in place in schools and youth programs, and then demand that those policies be implemented, or created, if they don’t currently exist.
The future is in our children; we must help them, and Stop the Silence.
To make a donation to Stop the Silence click here.
Carter Lee is the author of, When Jonathan Cried for Me, a professional speaker, and President of Innovative Social Dynamics LLC., and is a professional speaker. To learn more about his book click here. For a personal appearance or speaking engagement click here.
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