#WhyIDidn’tReport Trends on Twitter

April 17, 2020

So much has made me reflect lately on my own experience with childhood sexual abuse. I put it off for as long as I could but then it was like a dam breaking and I couldn’t devour the podcasts fast enough. The Catch and Kill about Harvey Weinstein. Believed about Larry Nassar, the Olympic gymnastics doctor.  Hunting Warhead about a child trafficking network. Chasing Cosby. The Mysterious Mr. Epstein. Over the past few months I’ve consumed more than 24 hours of audio content about children and young women being abused by adult men and how they got away with it for so long.

#WhyIDidn’tReport was trending on Twitter this morning. Research tells us that only 38% of children who are abused tell someone. Of that 38% who do tell, they often tell a peer or a sibling – not necessarily an adult who can do something about it. There are many reasons why children don’t report. They believe they have done something wrong and might get in trouble. They may believe they should have been able to stop it. Their abuser tells them it’s a secret. They don’t think they will be believed.

For me, it was two simple reasons why I didn’t report. For one, he was my dad. By the time I was old enough to understand what exactly he was doing to me, I was also old enough to understand the consequences. My dad was the only breadwinner and he ruled everything in our lives. I couldn’t imagine a world where something I did would put him in jail and somehow my mom, brother, and I would have to fend for ourselves. I felt it would always by “my fault” for ripping apart the family.

The other reason is the very words I used in my first reason. “By the time I was old enough to understand.” I was a child when it started. I literally don’t remember how young because it just always seemed to be a secret part of my life. After breakfast while my brother watched TV upstairs and my mom washed the dishes in the kitchen. On the weekends while my mother ran errands and my brother was at his friend’s house. They never knew but for me, it was a constant part of my earliest memories and because I was a child I had no way to process or understand what was happening.

Asking a child to gather the courage and maturity that would be necessary to both understand the impact of what is happening and also speak up is a tall order. Probably more importantly, when humans are in trauma, they are unable to grasp, much less process what is happening to them. It can be easy to forget that when a child is abused, they are in a state of trauma.

I still am coming to grips with that myself now as an adult 37-year-old. I had a therapist causally mention last year during a conversation on insurance billing that it shouldn’t be a problem because she’d classified me as PSTD. That “T” that stands for trauma, it stuck with me. I’ve been in therapy for the abuse since I was 27, so an entire decade, and it had never occurred to me that what I’d been through was trauma. That what I continue to relive is trauma. That realization has allowed me to be more gentle and understanding when I look back and wonder, #WhyIDidn’tReport.

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