Buffalo, N.Y. (wben.com) - If you’ve listened to my show Monday or Tuesday (11/14, 11/15) you may have heard some of the most amazing and disgusting radio of your life.
Somebody told me, “I wanted to turn it off, but I couldn’t!” Usually, that is the kind of comment I’d hear that would irritate me. At least the first part.
For four hours out of my last six on the air, you’ve heard your friends and neighbors call in to share intimate details of their having been sexually assaulted as children.
I wish you could have seen the faces of my crew (Chris Johnson, Connor Wolfley, Logan Howard) and myself when we asked victims to call in. Every single line blew up like Tokyo at night. We all looked at one another barely containing a feeling of being utterly overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the response.
Every one of those blinking phone lines represented a childhood lost. Innocence stolen. Shattered dreams.
Every time someone sexually assaults a child they dramatically increase the odds of that child growing into a depressed, confused, shattered adult.
The physical assault may end within moments, but the psychological trauma will be with you forever.
One of my callers Tuesday reminded me of something I’d not considered in years: that a big part of childhood is fear. Most kids make it a point to not get in trouble. Even when they’ve done nothing wrong (being assaulted is not the fault of a child) kids do not want to take the chance of being disciplined. Perpetrators know how to exploit this fear in children to their own sick advantage. They are master manipulators.
Many callers also expressed anger at the fact that their pleas for help as children fell upon deaf ears. Their small voices were either disbelieved or touched ears that didn’t want to make waves within the family, neighborhood or institution.
One adult caller, years after being sexually abused by a priest, finally told his elderly father what the “Man of God” had done.
His dad’s response? “Well, you never were a smart kid.” That callous remark is going to stay with me a while.
If you listened to the grief, pain and anger expressed by my callers, the emotions were almost palpable. Decades later, these folks convey a sense of loss and grief that is as fresh today as it has ever been. Even as senior citizens.
For some victims, the source of their lifelong sadness isn’t consciously known until a story like the church scandals or Penn State is talked about widely in the media.
Then, without warning the horrors are reawakened like a slumbering cancer.
I am sure that right now in our community and across the country there are people whose lives have been turned upside down by the recent realization that they too were victims of childhood sexual abuse. You may know someone whose behavior and mood has not been “quite right” since the Penn State story came out. It may even be you.
I hope that my callers have helped you to understand that you are not alone, and that there is no shame in what happened to you as a victim and no disgrace or cowardice in seeking help from a qualified professional now.
We also need to remember that in our rightful anger over children being sexually victimized, that in our system of law everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
The state has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Just because someone says they think so and so is a child molester does not make it so.
There are a lot of sick people in this world who are not afraid to falsely accuse someone of one of the most heinous of acts, and even a simple accusation can turn someone’s life into a living hell. This is not uncommon in situations where relationships end.
As the safety of children is important, so is the due process of the law.
Some of you reading this may be nodding in agreement because a false and spiteful accusation has been made against you or someone you know.
One other point…
Don’t be lured into the false idea that child molesters are strangers lurking in ice cream trucks with free puppies at the park. Every single victim of childhood sexual abuse I’ve ever known was the victim of either a family member or a “close” friend of the family.
The problem with monsters is they don’t have horns.
That’d make it easy.