Just as in the general population, there is a lot of misinformation and a general lack of knowledge about what is helpful for child abuse survivors who become involved in the justice system. I am providing information that I hope will be helpful for both survivors and the entire spectrum of those involved in prosecuting crimes against perpetrators. It is important that everyone from judges to law enforcement to victim advocates understand what a survivor is experiencing and how to best support his/her needs.
To begin with, it is critical to know that everything is stacked against a survivor who wants to seek justice.
From the very beginning, a child is brainwashed and conditioned to NOT TELL THE PERPETRATOR’S SECRET, because if they do, they will destroy the whole family. The child is shamed into believing it was their fault. Just like children of divorced parents, they automatically believe they caused the divorce. The programmed message is, “Everything will be all right as long as you don’t tell anyone.” So, this deep inappropriate shame and misplaced blame is carried forward into adulthood. Most survivors have never told anyone. In effect, the perpetrator accomplished his/her mission of having the victim cover up his/her crimes for the rest of their life.
What I call the “Brick Wall of Denial” is pervasive in America. The messenger is attacked because the message is unacceptable. When survivors have the courage and strength to finally try and tell other adults in their lives about their past trauma and its effects on them, they get the same messages. “It’s no big deal. Get over it.” Shaming messages: “Why didn’t you tell someone?” “There must be something wrong with you.” And so, the perpetrator is protected because the survivor will probably never try and tell anyone else.