Historical child sexual abuse
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children defines historical sexual abuse as ..
an allegation of sexual abuse made by or on behalf of someone who is now over 18 years of age relating to an incident which took place when the victim was under 18 years of age
The last decade has seen a rise in the reporting of large-scale historical sexual abuse. Men in their 40’s have been reporting about abuse they faced within Catholic institutions when they were children. The BBC compiled some of the European cases…
It is now apparent that thousands of children, especially boys, were abused by priests and brothers in the catholic church for decades. Adults trusted the priests and these children were never believed when they reported. But even for the few that were believed, nothing was done to the priests. For the sake of the reputation of the church, institutional cover up took over. Some priests were moved from country to country to avoid prosecution. Just a few days ago, the Pope’s own advisor stood accused.
But large scale abuse of children is not only about institutions but can be perpetrated by groups of men working together. The abuse of over 1,400 young girls in Rotherham by a string of Asian taxi drivers has been one of the largest known scandals in the UK…..
But individual men can also wreck havoc among children in a large scale too….
Jimmy Savile, a highly respected radio and TV producer and well known for his charity work with children – abused hundreds of children over many decades in the UK. Some cases were reported during while he was alive – but they were nor pursued. Rumours surrounded him but he was too respected – the true extend of his abuse only came out when he died….
When you look at the numbers – you feel if this was an infectious disease – it would be declared an epidemic and one newspaper put it that way
I have focused on the UK – not because it has a large number of abusers but because as a nation, they are facing up to past abuses. Giving victims a voice and in this way, learning lessons that are leading to more protection for children.
Yet other nations may be less willing to listen to historical abuse cases. When historical abuse is reported – people ask the women – why did you take so long to speak out? This is what is happening to the 57 women who Bill Cosby abused several decades. He appears to be getting away with it….
When someone asks – ‘Why have you taken twenty years to report this abuse – why now?
The words are spoken in a manner that suggests these women are up to something. That the woman is lying.
Under this question is ….
‘What are you hoping to gain from this?’
Historical child abuse cases are unlikely to be exhumed in Kenya. We are a long way from getting to a place where women feel safe enough to talk about historical abuse. When sexual abuse happens currently, the woman is often blamed for ‘getting themselves raped’. I have written about this blame culture before….
This is also a country where a paedophile will be acquitted after grooming a girl from the age of 10 years old and raping her for over 3 years – a judge telling the country that a 13 year old who ‘behaves like a grown woman’, should be treated as one’…….
If a 13 year old cannot get justice – what place is there for historical sexual abuse cases?
Yet adults who were sexually abused as children and either could find no one to talk to or were not believed when they spoke up – are not at peace in themselves.
When I was just out of college, a woman I knew confided in me about past childhood abuse. When she was 6 years old, an uncle who at that time was living in her childhood home, started to sexually abuse her. This went on for years, with the uncle creeping into her room at night, when everyone was asleep.
The guy moved on with his life and it was not until this woman was in her twenties that she told her family. They did not believe her. I was among the first friends she talked to about it.
I did not know what to do and worried more about what to say than to offer support and just listen. She never spoke about it again – I am sure she did not seek justice either. If her own family would not stand with her, her friends gobsmacked, unable to offer any support – why would she go out into the world and speak?
Even though she told me this story almost two decades ago, I remember her face. The words had left her mouth and she had regretted them when she realised how shocked I was. I was not able to provide her with what she needed. But the torture in her face, despite the years that had passed since the abuse, was still there. It would never have occurred to me even in my stupidly dumbfounded useless state, to ask the question -– Why did you take so long to speak out? Nothing would be more cruel.
She was a child, trying to process this – blaming herself. I know she was. She was careful not to draw attention to her body, herself in any way. As though in her mind – she believed that somehow the way she presented herself was to blame for what happened to her.
She had needed almost twenty years to process her pain.
If you get nothing from this blog – at least remember this …
Never ask – Why didn’t you say something all these years?
Instead offer to listen and support.
Over the years, I have listened to many Kenyan women talk about the abuse they endured as children. Some were able to speak up as children and went through gruelling court cases that it seemed to me – added to the trauma of what had happened to them. But I know that this is just but a tip of the iceberg.
If the UK has that many children abused in the past – Kenya will not have any less.
But the environment will not allow women to speak up.
One thing I am 100% certain off – very few people will believe you when you start to speak. Some of these abusers may now be powerful old men. They will say you have an agenda. Perhaps you want money. Or if they are in politics – they will say you are working with the opposition/government depending on their side of politics.
The women who will talk will need more than a good lawyer – you will need to garner a wall of serious social support to be with you when people attack you.
It has taken decades for the Catholic church to face up to its history of child sexual abuse among it’s priests – even getting an apology from the Pope. The girls from Rotherham in the UK, finally got their voice and though they will never get their childhood back – they have done their bit to ensure no other girl goes through this. The country has woken up to the problem, documentaries made, stories written.
Kenya will need to face up to the rot of past and present child sexual abuse. The figures from the UK should silence those who say we who write about child sexual abuse are exaggerating – it’s far worse than you imagine.
When a child speaks out – believe them. You have no idea whether you will be saving tens or hundreds of childhoods.