Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

The Subject Makes People Itch and Click Because…Why?

I know I’ve been on a bit of an advocacy tangent related to child sexual abuse, and the subject matter can be difficult to engage with. Sometimes I’m angry. Sometimes I’m hopeful. Sometimes I ramble with no definitive direction. I want to thank each person who has commented or emailed me, each person who has taken the time to participate in the conversations and who has shared a piece of themselves here on the pages of Shout. I’m always deeply humbled by your grace and kindness and willingness to listen to me ramble, or even to help carry this torch.

Child sexual abuse is top-of-mind for me as I work through and dissect material for the book I’m writing, and naturally that process is finding its way into the pages here. It feels right to me, for me, and so I’m making peace with the current reality of losing readership as a result. Really, I am. Kind of.

On a more macro level, I’ve become intensely curious about the social ill-at-ease and manifestations of shifting comfort zones regarding the conversations I want to have. I keep wondering if it’s so difficult a topic to discuss, to embrace, will there ever come a day when statistics aren’t as overwhelming as they are now—1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys? The numbers play chase and leapfrog through my mind, replaying their intensity every time I let my eyes wander over a playground.

Discussing sex in any forum is still taboo on so many levels of our society. Men are supposed to love for it, kill for it, cheat for it; women are supposed to tolerate it, act coy to it, make a gift of it.  We wrap nudity and curiosity into scruffy wool blankets where they don’t belong. We scoff at the idea of adult sexual play and assume mothers and fathers are so busy raising children they no longer intrigue themselves or their partners, yet the mini vans parked in front of adult toy stores tell a different story. We’re shut up, silently cuffed by a deep-seeded puritanical attitude that’s more cloak than dagger. We pretend ambivalence, deny desire, joke or pander to the idea of lust, and yet privately we write different stories. We struggle to talk with friends, we lament about having to discuss sex with our children and we continue to tell ourselves…You can do it, but you can’t talk about it.

And so I wonder and I worry. Is our attitude about sex and our need to keep private, even secret, that which is a natural human desire the root of our difficulty in discussing sexual abuse? Sexual abuse and human sexuality are not the same; in fact they are so far removed from each other they can’t even claim kindred spirits. Their entwining is often where victims lose themselves on a life path of difficult choices and confusion. It’s where abusers and their victims tango in horror and it’s where the innocent cling to shame.

I want to know what you think, what you believe. If you tell me, honestly, you can help me to have a more lasting impact in other forums and in the lives of children. If people don’t want to hear, we’ll never create change. I need to understand and I need your help because I’m too close to the fire.

The subject of child sexual abuse makes people itch and click because…why?

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12 comments to The Subject Makes People Itch and Click Because…Why?

  • SSG

    i think the more we talk about it the better. The more we can talk about it in the open, so kids know it is something they can talk about to, so they dont feel dirty if it happens to them, so they know they can speak out, so they know other people have dealt with it to. Sex is the most basic human function after breathing, eating and pooing, so in general should not be taboo and should be able to be talked about. hell the human population is growing at such a rate that people are having sex somewhere!

    SSGs last blog post..As promised…

  • I think there are probably numerous reasons we get uncomfortable talking about sex abuse. I’m sure you are right that our cultural feelings about sex are one of the main reasons. I also think that anything that makes us worry about our own children or fear for them makes us uncomfortable. As well as the unknown factor of how to make this situation better. But I agree that discussing it openly and honestly is the only way to combat it.

    debbies last blog post..This must be why women don’t like to discuss their ages

  • So here I sit with a million ideas in my head … so I will ramble, maybe even play my dad and take a stand on one side regardless of my beliefs and see where the conversation goes …

    We talk so much about sex being human nature … maybe the animal instinct within us … so maybe we need to look to the animal world to find answers. Unfortunately, I think we would fine this harsh and unkind in many ways … from forced sex to killing of mates … BUT all for one purpose to continue life.

    So where does that leave us ‘civilized’ humans? Evolving an act with a purpose into an act for pleasure.

    I agree 100% we need to open communication lines but in a way that is beneficial. Some could say that there is just too much sex in our society … through media, skimpy clothes, permisqueist behaviors, etc.. BUT we still seem to be avoiding the real issue (at least in my mind). It seems that there needs to be some humility and respect for the act of sex AND how is effects the people involved.

    I honestly can not say that any of this makes sense, as I am struggling to make sense in my mind … I disagree with the over publicizing of sex, honestly I do not want to know about your (or anyone elses) sex life. I think it should be a highly respected act between two people – not just a moment of pleasure on a whim. But I do believe that between those two it should be the most open, honest and beautiful thing shared!

    I will stop rambling, I am sure Tricia, you will have something to throw back to make me think! THANKS!

    Also thank you for opening up these subjects and asking … you are making a difference!

    Amy @ Five Flower Moms last blog post..Take Me Out To The Ball Game!!!

  • Tricia

    @SSG: I laughed out loud when I read the end of your comment. Everything you say is true. Thanks.

    @Debbie: You bring up a fantastic point, and one that I haven’t really put much consideration into…the fear of anything happening to the children we love can easily make us want to run in the other direction. I most often think of people’s hesitancy to discuss these topics because of shame, but you’re right…fear is huge. Thanks for bringing this up.

    @Amy: I agree with the idea that much of our society is over sexualized, expecially as it relates to children and our expectations, the media messages assaulting children who don’t even have the maturity to process them, etc. But where I disagree, and I probably need to think about this some more is the idea that sex for pleasure is something to be scoffed at or hidden. There are so many great reason why sex is more than a biological act to procreate. In many ways the idea of sex being bad is rooted in religious doctrine and historical perspective. Before the advent of reliable birth control, pregnancy was a real and often probably outcome. Society had to find ways to make sex as pleasure a taboo, to condem people’s sexuality in addition to the act itself. Too many children born to uncommitted adults would have been a more serious social issue than whether or not sex should be considered taboo. And so I have to throw back to you a question…If we’re talking about two adults in a non abusive situation, what’s wrong with sex for pleasure? You mention how sex affects the people involved…but you don’t explain what the effects are?

  • See I knew you would make me think …I agree that there is nothing wrong with two adults in a non abusive relationship having sex for pleasure. It is not a matter of agreeing or not … I just am trying to figure out where the idea that there has to be sexual pleasure with everyone … maybe this is where some abuse comes from … pleasure is quite subjective per the individual — there seems to be a lot of expectations around sex and relationships, maybe more than needs to be! I think that it is hard to be different so this causes stress and anxiety and lack of communication.

    The effects I speak of are simple … babies, disease, and then I think the emotional effects that comes from lack of communication.

    I do not think that there are black and white answers as the definition and expectations of a sexual relationship varies so much from person to person.

    I agree with you on the religious aspects and the history of sex BUT lets go back farther to the actual instinctual behavior, where it comes from, etc… there should not be shame in that but I do think we do need to look at it and respect where it has come from … and then as a society decide how we want it to evolve (as this has already been done, with shame, we now need to rethink and adjust). What do we want to teach our children …

    Do we want them to think that in a relationship sex is a must, just because it is pleasurable for some. Coffee is pleasurable for some but not required for both in marriage!!!

    Sex is taking over so many aspects of lives that it has this strange way of being taboo but over publicized. I think that makes it even harder to spot and stop abuse!

    Now please know I am writing off the top, without lots of thought! I

    Amy @ Five Flower Moms last blog post..Take Me Out To The Ball Game!!!

  • WOOPS! I was just going to say that I love debating with you … makes me think … “What would David say?” I can only imagine, it would not be fit for a blog at least not in his words!

    Amy @ Five Flower Moms last blog post..Take Me Out To The Ball Game!!!

  • donna

    I think sex between two people that love each other is beautiful. I belive we need to teach our children this so they can make the connection. If we do not talk about it being a beautiful thing between two people who are in love then what are we teaching our children? How will they know? I think good touch, bad touch should be talked about in the home. As you all have read I was a victim of sexual abuse by the hands of my father, Sex was not talked about in our home.I did not know about birth control and I got pregnant when I was 15 years old. I thought the only way to show someone you loved them was to let them have their way with you. After all, that was the way that I was brought up. No one taught me any different. Teach your children, don’t let them think that is what they do to be loved. Believe them over any thing else believe them when they come to you and say so and so touched me in an inappropriate way. Teach them that is not what love is supposed to feel like. Teach them that when you truly love someone then it will be right. If they do come to you and say those words no parent ever wants to hear, let them know they have done the right thing and you will protect them and no one will ever hurt them in that way again. No one will ever hurt any one they love no matter what the perp has told them.
    Sorry if I am rambling but this very near and dear to my heart and it does start in the homes. If you have never been a victim, great! If you have then you know what I am talking about and our voice is our biggest advocate.
    Thanks Tricia

  • Tricia

    @Amy: You have no idea how much I’m laughing that you drew an analogy between coffee and sex, or maybe you did know this would make me chuckle. Maybe the reason sex is so prevalent in media and so confusing to discuss is because there’s this halo around it…the forbidden fruit. Most sexual abuse is about power rather than sexuality. Discussing sex openly is a prerequisite to stopping abuse, at least in my opinion, although it’s certainly not the stop gate by any means. I have more questions than answers.

    @Donna: Wow! I think you nailed it on the head. Really. Whatever our value systems are, we have to discuss sex openly enough with children that they can perceive what’s abusive and what’s not, with our help. We need to move accountability from the shoulders of children to the shoulders of adults. Sexuality, love, power…when it gets warped by abuse, it’s so confusing. I know. Your experiences and internalization are symptomatic of the reactions survivors have, myself included just through different manifestations. Maybe, hopefully, one of the conversations we need to repeatedly have with children is about personal power and that our bodies are our own, and we have a choice about who we get to share them with. When it’s not our choice, when any kind of coercion is involved it’s abuse. Black and white, no gray area here.

  • “Sexual abuse and human sexuality are not the same; in fact they are so far removed from each other they can’t even claim kindred spirits. Their entwining is often where victims lose themselves on a life path of difficult choices and confusion. It’s where abusers and their victims tango in horror and it’s where the innocent cling to shame.”

    Powerful, powerful paragraph, Tricia.

    Writer Dads last blog post..The Classroom is Only a Baseline

  • Personally I’m much more comfortable talking about sexual abuse than I am with sex in general. I’ve always just felt it’s a private thing. But I feel sexual abuse should be talked about as much as necessary to put a stop to it. Pollyanna, I know but I can dream. I have no answers for you, Tricia, my dear but wanted you to know that you DIDN’T lose me.

    Smart Mouth Broads last blog post..CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

  • First, I want to ditto Smart Mouth.

    The stats on sexual abuse against children are indeed grim. As a young girl I was the focus of my great uncle’s attention. I was lucky to have escaped ‘the ultimate’ violation, but there was plenty leading up to that I will never forget. When it all came out my family dealt with it immediately. He was gone from my life. I was relieved, but to this day I still find myself looking over my shoulder and not trusting older men. It’s starting to sink in to me that my husband will soon start to take on some of the features of my abuser. As his hair grays and thins, as his shoulders start to hunch, we may have some things to work through. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle that.

    Back when everything came out my family did what most families do. They hid it from the world. It was supposedly for my benefit. To protect me from embarrassment, shame and scrutiny. The trouble with that strategy is it reinforced the need for me to feel embarrassed and ashamed. I knew we weren’t to talk about it outside my parents and grandparents. The rest of the family didn’t even know. We had a made up story over why my aunt’s husband moved away. I had to tell this fabricated story to anyone who happened to ask me about him. Every time I lied, supposedly for my sake, it felt like a lie for his sake.

    Now that I’m 37 I’m not convinced at all we as a society are really protecting our kids from embarrassment or shame when we hide what happened to them. I think adults are subconsciously, maybe even consciously, protecting themselves from being judged over how they could let a predator have access to their kids. As if it only happens to parents who aren’t paying attention. Not so. In my case, my parents were extremely protective and only trusted us with close friends and family members. And isn’t that who predators end up being most of the time because they have the ultimate trust and access.

    I think we need to work really hard to create an environment where the only one who needs to worry about being embarrassed or judged is the predator. Predators have been able to thrive amongst us because of the guilt we all take on when they’ve managed to cross our paths. It distracts us. It silences us. The guilt should be theirs! Let’s distract and silence them!

    Lisa Ps last blog post..The Present Game – Beautiful Like Me Project

  • America is so historically puritanical, it is taking decades of education and greater access to information to break out of the cycle of misinformation and fear. Just this month, the Supreme Court dug up the Janet Jackson Super Bowl Microsecond Boob Flash, asking a lower appeals court to reinstate an “indecency” fine against CBS. FIVE YEARS later and our highest court is still making an issue out of a woman’s nipple on TV. And we wonder why open dialogue about sexuality is still stifled??

    When we, as a country, are more comfortable talking about sex outside of the “comfortable” scope (set primarily by religion), I think we can be more aware of sexual abuse and better combat it.

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