Millions of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect isolate because of society’s refusal to lend support when they finally have enough courage to tell someone about their past trauma. After being brainwashed as young children that they were the cause of their own abuse and that if they said anything, they would endure more harm, adult survivors are usually left with the need to summon up enormous courage, if they want to confront their abuser’s criminal acts, with little or no support from the public. It is an almost impossible task, so many never reach that level of defiance.
Society, as a silent partner, reinforces the perpetrator’s brainwashing. Thus, abusers are rarely prosecuted or receive minimal sentences. The insidious way this is accomplished is by people arguing that identifying the frequency of abuse, and addressing its long-term effects, encourages the development of a nation of “victims” who are paralyzed by self-pity. Victims are encouraged to “leave the past behind them” and to not expect any “special treatment” because of their abuse. Society defines survivors as the problem, reinforcing the messages of their own victimization.
This behavior fosters a minimizing of the effects of abuse, making it difficult for survivors to effectively address them. And, it encourages survivors to automatically put their own needs second to those of others, including the needs of society to be shielded from the truth. The voices of the abuser’s silent partners have become powerful and organized, often making survivors feel even more unsafe and afraid to speak out or seek help. Survivors are afraid they will not be believed; that they will be perceived as a “crazy” or disturbed person.
These silent, behind-the-scenes voices also lead survivors to be afraid of the very people who offer help. Therapists and others who provide services to victims and survivors are publicly blamed for creating the problem, rather than exposing it. The messenger is attacked because the message is unacceptable. The debate has often over simplified the understanding we have of memory and the way it works, especially in cases of trauma. Therapists have been the target of anger and fear. Groups such as the False Memory Syndrome Foundation have actively supported family members accused of abuse in lawsuits against survivor’s therapists. They have publicly targeted therapists who specialize in work with trauma-related issues and developed an extensive media campaign to promote their views. In this climate, it is easy for therapists to feel vulnerable and under attack and to react defensively.
 “Victim Empowerment: Bridging the Systems; Mental Health and Victim Service Providers,” Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, May 2000.