As I stand alone behind the podium, my words reach out to each unknown person and I wonder what parts of their hearts I am touching. Are they victims, hiding the secrets of their past in the shadows of their minds? Are they moms, wondering if the nice men who have been so helpful with their kids, are actually grooming them for perverse plans? Are they wives, wondering about the dynamics of their families?
Finally, my talk is over and I invite anyone who has questions or would like to talk, to come and speak with me. Many of the stories I hear have never before broken the silence of their secrecy. Emboldened by what they have just heard, people stammer out situation after situation of brutality, betrayal, confusion, perversity and pain – things they have kept secret all their lives.
It can be an excruciating process for victims to find their voices and gather the boldness to reveal what happened to them in their past, but when it comes, the liberation of being validated by people who believe them is boundless – and the possibility of preventing their perpetrators from harming others is heightened.
Through bringing light into dark memories and exposing what predators have done for centuries, the way society views child sex abuse is changing. The shame is shifting from the victims to the place it belongs - to the predators. It’s a huge relief to many victims to shed the burden of secret shame they may have carried for years and to know they’re not alone. Gradually, the fear of being judged negatively is slipping away in the realization that it’s okay to talk about the things that have haunted them.
This month, a litany of new charges, for alleged offences between 1965 and 1984, were laid against Gordon Stuckless, dubbed the “Monster of Maple Leaf Gardens.” While some may wonder why it has taken the alleged victims so long to come forward, it is no mystery to Theo Fleury, who was molested by former junior hockey coach, Graham James. It took 27 years for Theo to finally talk about it. His teammate, Sheldon Kennedy, went public about his abuse under Graham James 15 years earlier. Together, they encourage others to come forward as they did and feel the empowerment they have found.
But it’s not just about a swell of victims finding their voices; it’s about making those voices resonate throughout society and the legal system to send a message to predators that they can no longer count on silence and shame to hide them, and that we need to find ways to protect kids. Child sexual abuse has become epidemic.
The WKI® “Plan to Protect™” bit.ly/1dHKx0Y needs to be established and implemented in every organization where children are involved – schools, churches, clubs, sports facilities, child care centers, etc. As the protocols become familiar to volunteers and workers who use them in their interactions with children, they will become acknowledged, expected protocols in society in general, giving a greater measure of safety to our little ones.
Candid revelations of offences, an atmosphere of safety in revealing secrets, having the sound policies of “Plan to Protect™” in place and giving predators an expectation of severe punishment are all critical factors in turning the tide on child sexual abuse.
It’s a lot of work, but we can do it – together.
© Diane Roblin-Lee