WORKING TOGETHER TO CREATE AN ABUSE-FREE FUTURE
Publisher: Beverly Engel
Hello. I want to thank all of you who have sent me positive emails about my books. I love feeling connected to so many people, all over the world. And it feels so gratifying to hear that my books are helping people who might not otherwise receive the information in my books. In the past few months I’ve received emails from India, Australia, Israel, China, Korea, Argentina, Mexico, Sweden, Germany and South Africa. One woman, originally from Estonia but now living in Scotland, wrote about how she noticed that women in Scotland are so much more independent than in Estonia, and how she wished women there could read my book, The Nice Girl Syndrome. A web publisher from Gurgaon, India asked that I become part of their team of "Matrihues" for a web portal related to marital bliss. The first article I contributed to was on "Disappearing Women."
I’m happy to say that the foreign rights to my books continue to be sold, thanks to my fabulous foreign rights agent, Mary Tahan. My books have now been translated into Greek, Spanish, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. I hope that in the future, when I have an inquiry as to whether a certain book has been translated into a certain language I will be able to say, "Yes!."
I also contributed to two very prominent websites in the past few months,
ABCNews.com. The Oprah article referred to my book, Loving Him without Losing You and the ABC News article was related to my book, The Power of Apology.
This month’s article is on Child Sexual Abuse, a subject that has been in the news quite a lot lately and a subject that is not talked about often enough, as far as I am concerned.
In the News from Beverly segment I will include announcements of upcoming events, workshops or conferences relevant to the treatment or prevention of abuse. Feel free to send me announcements you feel readers will find of interest. I cannot guarantee I can include them all but I will do my best to include what I feel is relevant. I will also announce my own upcoming workshops and books. I ask that you order books directly from
BarnesandNoble.com as I do not sell individual books directly to readers. If you would like to attend a workshop, feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please forward this ezine to anyone you know who is interested in preventing or healing childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse or emotional, physical or sexual abuse in adult relationships. If you are receiving this issue as a forward, and would like your own no-cost subscription please follow the instructions at the end of this newsletter.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
By Beverly Engel
"The cruelest lies are often told by silence." Robert Louis Stevenson
In the past few weeks we’ve had two high profile sexual assault cases in the news--the Mackenzie Phillips case, and the one involving Roman Polanski. Both cases have stirred up a great deal of controversy, with most people having strong feelings one way or another. What seems abundantly clear from all the controversy is that there are still huge numbers of people in the US (as well as all over the world) who are in major denial about the fact that child sexual abuse is occurring at epidemic proportions and that children who are molested suffer from such devastating damage that it often takes a lifetime to heal. In spite of the fact that so many Cable TV shows (as well as mainstream media) have spent hours upon hours dissecting these cases, very few address the core issues: namely that we as a country have an investment in sweeping child sexual abuse under the carpet, that when victims do come forward they are not believed, and in some cases, even demonized, and that there are people in this country that think they have a right to molest children and get away with it.
You would think that we would be much further along in our ability to face this enormous social problem. After all, it isn’t as if we haven’t been educated. It isn’t as if we don’t hear about child sexual abuse cases all the time. It isn’t as if we haven’t heard from high profile people about their victimization (Oprah, Terri Hatcher, Suzanne Somers--to name a few). So why do we continue to refuse to face the truth about child sexual abuse--namely that we are not protecting our children sufficiently, we are not exposing the child molesters among us, and we are not putting enough effort and money into stopping this epidemic?
The main reason given as to why we have so much denial about child sexual abuse is that it is far too painful to face and of course, this is true. It is painful to face the fact that an adult you love could have harmed you in such a selfish way. It is painful to face the fact that your beloved child was molested by someone you love and trust. It is painful to face the fact that we cannot trust our coaches, teachers, priests, pastors, youth counselors to not take advantage of their positions of power to molest our children. But as painful as these truths are, we simply must face them if we wish to stop this epidemic. Just as we were all forced to come out of denial about the dangers of smoking, we need to be forced to admit the dangers our children face everyday--not just at the hands of strangers, but at the hands of caretakers, family members, and other so-called "trusted" adults. The fact is that the majority of child molesters are not strangers, as we have been led to believe, but family members, friends and other people who were acquainted with the child. Incest has been cited as the most common form of child abuse. Over 10 million Americans have been victims of incest. Studies conclude that 43 % of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members, 33 % are abused by someone they know, and the remaining 24 % are sexually abused by strangers.
It is amazing that in a country where sex is everywhere--on television, in our movies, on billboards, in our music--we still can’t talk openly with our children about sex and sexual abuse. We still can’t talk openly about a problem that damages more children’s lives than nearly any disease (it is estimated that 39 percent of all women are sexually abused in childhood).
We need to begin to talk more openly about child sexual abuse and not continue to allow it to fester and grow in the darkness. By not talking about it openly with our children we send the message that they need to keep it a secret if it happens to them. Knowing that children often blame themselves for things that are not their fault, we are irresponsible if we do not talk openly about child molesters and how they manipulate children.
We need to talk about the act of child molestation the way we would any crime. For example, we teach our children that stealing is wrong. We teach our teenagers that drunk driving is wrong. If someone steals from our child, we don’t blame our child. If a drunk driver were to hit your car, you don’t blame yourself. Therefore, if a sexual predator abuses your child, or attempts to abuse your child, he or she should be made to understand that it is not their fault--they were the victim of a cruel criminal act.
In order to outsmart the molesters, we need to be just as smart as they are. Molesters often tell kids that they are teaching them about sex. If we taught our kids about sex, including being open about the fact that kids can feel sexual, they would know this is a lie. Molesters often tell kids that their parents won’t believe them if they were to tell. If we have already warned our kids about molesters--that they can be anyone, including a family member or a coach or teacher, and assured them that we will believe them if it happens to them, this ploy will stop working. Molesters try to create a wedge between a kid and his or her parents by telling the child that they will get into trouble for coming over to the molester’s house, or for watching the pornography the molester showed them, etc. etc. We need to let our kids know that nothing they will ever do will make us stop loving them and the fact that they may sometimes break the rules (such as going to someone’s house without telling us) doesn’t mean they deserve to be molested.
By not talking openly about child molesters--how prevalent they are, why they molest and how disturbed they are, we give them all the power. Let’s take that power away from them.
We also need to talk to our kids about shame. We need to teach them the difference between guilt and shame--that we feel guilty when we do something that goes against our own, and in the case of children, their parents’ morals and values and belief system. We need to share with them that guilt is a reminder that we need to change our behavior. Shame, on the other hand, makes us not only feel as if we did something wrong but that we are wrong--that we are bad. When we feel shamed we feel flawed and less than other people. We need to tell our children that being victimized makes people feel shamed when it really shouldn’t because they haven’t done anything wrong.
Children need to have it explained to them that molesters are clever, manipulative people who are experts in getting what they want. The fact that a child was victimized by an abuser doesn’t mean that he or she wasn’t smart enough or strong enough to fight the abuser off--it just means that he was no match for the cleverness and the strength of the abuser. We need to explain to them ahead of time that it was not their fault, that they are not to blame no matter what. We need to tell our children that the molester should feel ashamed of themselves, not them.
Another reason why we stay in denial about child sexual abuse is that if we come out of the shadows and start facing what a pervasive problem it is, many people who are in denial about their own abuse will be confronted with the painful truth. Admitting that sexual abuse is all around us can make us confront our own histories. We are appalled when we hear someone that many of us respect, like Whoopi Goldberg, talk about it not being "rape-rape" in the Polanski case. But this is what people who are in denial do. They minimize. They make excuses. Anything so they won’t have to face the truth. Because for many, facing the truth is too close to home. I’m not saying that this is the case with Whoopi. But I do question what would make someone who is as educated as she is make such a statement. To suggest that there are different levels of forcing someone to have sexual intercourse without their consent--that some rapes are better than others, is simply ludicrous. We all know that sometimes those who have experienced molestation or rape can be the least sympathetic to other victims. This is because they secretly blame themselves for their own abuse.
And of course, there are people who deny the epidemic of child sexual abuse because they themselves are molesters. This group of people--and there are more numbers than anyone cares to imagine--has an obvious investment in making us believe that we are all "making too much of this" and that we as Americans have become paranoid. Some of these people will try to tell us that the rest of the world sees things differently. They point out that in Europe they wouldn’t consider a 13 or 14-year-old too young for sexual intercourse, even with an adult. They tell us that we are too "uptight" about sex and about our bodies in this country--that in Europe women go topless at the beach and that nudity is acceptable in many places. What they don’t tell us is that many places in Europe, including Sweden and the Netherlands--known for their sexual permissiveness--have high rates of child sexual abuse and that much of the world’s child pornography is produced in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and other "liberal" countries. In the past several years, it has been discovered that there is a Europe-wide child pornography network. For example, in 2007 Austrian police arrested 2360 suspects who were paying to see videos of children being sexually abused. In some of the videos, the children’s cries were heard.
In developing countries like India and Africa, the sexual abuse of children is rampant, as is child prostitution. In Brazil, an estimated 1 million children are believed to enter the sex market each year and in the last decade over 200,000 Bangladeshi girls were lured under false circumstances and sold into the sex industry in nations such as Pakistan, India and the Middle East. The truth is, the United States is ahead of every country in the world when it comes to addressing the issue of child sexual abuse.
There are many things that we all can do to stop the spread of the epidemic of child sexual abuse, but we have to be as vigilante about it as we are in stopping the spread of the flu virus. And we all must face some painful truths--about ourselves, about the way we treat our children, and about the way we view child molesters. We must confront our denial, our lack of information and our tendency to believe that good people can’t do bad things. We must come to terms once and for all with the fact that child sexual abuse gets passed down from one generation to the next and that this generation’s victims are the next generation’s molesters.
I’ll continue on this subject in the weeks to come. I look forward to your feedback.
The Nice Girl Syndrome will soon be out in paperback. Look for it at your local bookstore or order it from
Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com. I appreciate your support.
- I will be speaking at the 8th Annual Caldwell Family Violence Task Force Conference in Lockhart, Texas on October 23rd from 9-4 PM on "Guardians of Innocence": How We Can All Play an Even Stronger Role in Protecting Children from Child Sexual Abuse.
- Check out my "blog" on the Psychology Today website. My blog is entitled "The Compassion Chronicles." Check out my recent blogs by going to
I hope you enjoyed this issue of Working Together to Create an Abuse-Free Future.
To find out more about Beverly Engel, go to
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