If I had a voice I would tell you that you cannot afford to stay silent. I would ask you to please help me.
I would tell you that there are thousands of children just like me who need you to speak up and speak out because, right now, we can’t do it on our own.
If I had a voice, I would ask you to remember feeling trapped, scared, confused, and alone. I would ask you to not turn away from us, but to reach out to us, lending us your strength.
If I had a voice, I would tell you my story. I would tell others my story. I would be like you. I would be a survivor and no longer a victim.
If only I had a voice.
Child sexual abuse crimes are among the most unreported crimes in our communities. Much of the reason for this has to do with the fact that a large percentage of child sexual abuse crimes are committed by someone the victims know. These perpetrators include family members, a trusted friend of the family, or other trusted adults.
It is much more difficult for victims to tell what is happening to them when it is daddy, stepdad, uncle, grandpa, mom, stepmom, aunt, cousin, or pastor. When the perpetrators are well known and/or respected in their families and communities, their victims are almost immediately silenced. Victims feel powerless and helpless. They feel as if no one will believe them, and they have often been made to feel as though they are to blame for what is being done to them.
There is nothing like shame to silence a voice. Many voices were silenced years ago and have remained silent to this day. In that silence, childhoods were destroyed, self-worth was diminished, faith was lost, and dreams were stolen.
For so many victims, there was no one around to be a voice for them. Nobody noticed the signs, clues, or the silent cries for help.
If you have suffered sexual abuse as a child, today can be the day that you make steps toward finding your voice. Just because you have moved on with your life does not mean that you have overcome. It is easy to tuck those dark memories away, way in the back of your mind and refuse to bring them to the forefront.
It is easy to remain silent about that part of your life and never have anyone know. But, imagine the children that you encounter everyday, some of whom you know, who are being victimized as you were. Imagine if they saw a face that looked like theirs or heard a story that sounded like their story. Imagine if they saw your courage and heard your voice.
Imagine the one childhood you could salvage, the one life you could change. Sometimes, the thing we are most ashamed of, the thing we are most secretive about, or the thing about ourselves that we guard the most is sometimes the very thing that could free someone else.
Everyone’s process is different, and when you are ready, your voice may free you and someone else.
Can you hear me?
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.