By Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD
No doubt like me; you are sickened by the Penn State child sexual assaults; as you were no doubt sickened by previous mass incidents of child sexual assaults by Priests, Clergy, Rabbis. The non-reporting and cover-up syndrome at Penn State is no different than clergy cover-up for sex offenders within the religious fabric of society.
While the media, professionals and collegiate officials debate how to handle the Penn State tragedy, including the systemic cover-up by university leaders, and others; like myself; you want the public to know how sexual abuse impacts children’s lives.
You no doubt heard commentators make innate and blatantly calloused comments: ‘What’s done is done,’ ‘There’s no one left to go after,’ ‘Why punish the students and the athletes by placing sanctions on Penn State?’ Unlike the religious entities and Penn State University the damage quickly fades into the back ground; sexual abuse does not fade into the back ground.
It’s time to heal those who bear the aftermath, and it is time for society to pull their heads out of the sand about sexual child abuse and sex offenders. In my book “If I’d Only Known… Sexual Abuse In Or Out Of The Family: A Guide To Prevention,” I set-forth the details and the stark aftermath of sexual child abuse and how to prevent it in or out of the family. If these commentators, professionals, clergy or collegiate officials were the victims, or their children were, I know they would demand restitution and changes going forward so that a tragedy of this nature would be prevented.
Hearing the supporters of the university’s football program nullify the damage is reminiscent of a society that is in denial about the full scope and magnitude of sexual child abuse aftermath. Penn State’s board could do the noble gesture and make it easy for themselves by self-imposing the ‘death penalty’ option – temporarily shutting down the embattled football program.
As horrific as sexual child abuse is, left untreated by a protocol specifically focused on sexual child abuse recovery, rather than treating the symptomatic behaviors and physical maladies, the volume of lifelong negative consequences is worse than the initial assault. Children often hear the voice of their abuser in their minds-telling them they’re bad, they’re ugly, they’re worthless, that no one would believe them, or no one would care or they wanted and/or liked the sexual assault-long after the abuse occurred and/or was reported. The emotional torture continues until the recovery process is in an advanced stage.
Without a recovery process specifically focused on sexual child abuse the lasting scars, include, but are not limited to:
• Difficulty managing emotions. One of the strongest signs of well-being is the ability to manage adversity, to keep emotions balanced. “For sexual abuse survivors, a lasting legacy is the opposite of well-being.” Sexual abuse survivors usually have difficulty expressing feelings, which are then bottled up, often leading to sporadic periods of depression, anger and anxiety. Many survivors use excess alcohol and/or drugs to numb the pain.
• Feeling a core sense of worthlessness, dirty or damaged. The physical side of sexual abuse is one aspect, what haunts survivors is the voice of the abuser, constantly reinforcing a lack of personal value. As time passes the survivors mature into adults, who are unable to invent in themselves. With a deep sense of being damaged, they often feel incapable or unworthy of career success and higher-paying positions.
• Difficulty trusting relationships or people on any level is omnipresent. 80% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by family members, 19% is perpetrated by people the child knows and trusts– family friends, church leaders, teachers, sports coach, scout leaders, et al. U.S. Government statistics reveal 1% of children sexually abused are abused by a stranger. Children who can not feel secure within the family, the most fundamental relationships, develop deep and pervasive trust issues. Relationships are often doomed because the survivor trashes good relationships, fearing their partner will ultimately either control, hurt or abandon them as was the case with the trusted family-member perpetrator. More often than not, survivors are drawn to an abusive person because they do not know what a healthy relationship feels like or entails.
When I hear the ‘Yeah, but,’ argument from people who are in denial and defend and thereby allow sexual child abuse to continue, whether it is the tragedy of Penn State, the Catholic Church, Judaism, Protestant or Mormon Church, my convictions that society needs to do more to raise awareness about sexual child abuse rises another octave. Society needs to raise awareness on how sex offenders are created; how sexual abuse offenses can be prevented; and enforcing the law, which requires professionals and persons in authority to report the abuse when the person first suspects there is reason to believe an adult is on the verge or already has sexually abused a child.
In the final analysis, we have a responsibility to protect our children so they can reach their greatest potential, free of adults who may exploit and alter that divine gift-potential.
No more denial. No more cover-ups. No more excuses or reasons for any child being sexually abused by someone who has authority or responsibility for the child’s well-being.
Dr. Neddermeyer has developed and facilitates workshops on preventing sexual child abuse, identifying would-be sex offenders and the signs of sexual abuse. http://drdorothy.info/?page_id=9
Dorothy M Neddermeyer, PhD has studied human health and well-being for decades, earning a Masters in Clinical Social Work and a Doctorate in Metaphysics. In 1994, she founded Genesis Consultants, Inc. a personal and professional consulting firm. She facilitates Emotional, Physical and Spiritual Transformation (EPST) a highly effective protocol to Transform the root cause of all issues and symptoms. EPST is direct, focused and combines creating health while transforming the past. She is a keynote speaker and offers programs for schools, organizations and in corporate settings. http://drdorothy.net
- Letter to the editor: Effective policies could stave off child sexual abuse (norwichbulletin.com)
- Carlson’s abuse followed familiar pattern, but few spoke up (bangordailynews.com)