Thursday, April 16, 2009
Monday, November 3, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
So I spent my day today in training for the crisis line at work. The whole session was about adult survivors of child sexual abuse--a tough topic for a sunny fall afternoon. Part of the session was a video called Breaking Silence, an older film but one that gives a good sense of how CSA affects different people. One of the people interviewed in the film was a mother of four whose two oldest daughters were abused by their father, her husband. She said that she chose not to report the abuse or leave her husband because she was afraid and had no financial resources or anywhere to go.
It would be easy to be critical of that mother. But I felt more sad than angry. Here was a woman who was trapped in a time where she had no resources, an era where women were completely dependent on their husbands and things like sexual assault centres and women's shelters didn't exist. If she left, she'd likely lose her kids, and even if she didn't, she had no job skills and nowhere safe to go. She confronted her husband, and he did stop the abuse, but she didn't leave because of her fear, both of trying to survive and of what would happen with this abusive man.
Yes, there are women who are genuinely complicit in their children's abuse, some who even actively participate or are the sole perpetrator. But for many women, they are as victimized as their children, trapped in an abusive relationship with no way out. I can't judge them for that. I've never been in that woman's shoes.
What I can be angry about is that even now, 50 years down the road, we are still failing to provide safety for people trying to escape abuse. In Alberta, 20,000 women and children were turned away from shelters because there were no beds. Teens fleeing abusive homes end up living on the streets, struggling with addictions and prostitution to try to survive somehow.
Most of all, I blame the perpetrators. Those who prey on children, using their power as adults to force kids into sexual experiences that no one should have to face. They are the ones to rage at; they are the ones to judge. A mother who did her best to survive and care for her children doesn't deserve that, even if we think we can say what's best from the outside looking in.
I spent Halloween visiting people and relaxing. One of the couple I was visiting is a very old friend of mine. He was proudly selecting badges to sew onto his daughter's first campfire blanket because she started Beavers this year. It's stuff like this that reminds me I'm a grown-up now.