Some might think, “Compared to others, what happened to me was almost nothing.” But so much good happens when child sexual abuse is taken from the shadows and exposed to the light. No one doubts, for example, that laws and practices and public vigilance around abuse have improved dramatically because – at least in part – of the tremendous number of articles, news accounts, stories, blogs, films, and documentaries about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups.
At the same time, however, at least one serious downside is caused by all this attention. Few talk about it or understand it, though we at Horowitz Law do get it. That downside is the sense that many abuse victims have that “well, what happened to me is almost nothing compared to what other kids endured.” In other words, because we’ve all read or heard about many especially egregious cases, what we endured seems like very little. Tragically, that feeling leads many abuse victims to stay silent.
Just because your perpetrator may not have drugged you, physically coerced you, threatened to kill your family, raped you dozens of times, assaulted your siblings too, or held a gun to your head, you might tell yourself, “Honestly, what he did to me wasn’t really any big deal.” If you tell yourself that, you’re not alone. Many victims of abuse feel that way. But they, and you, are wrong.
We at Horowitz Law have listened to and helped thousands of adults violated as children. We can tell you, for certain, that ANY ‘crossing the line,’ or ‘inappropriate touch’ or ‘one-time’ kiss, grope, or long hug – even over your clothing or done gently or from an adult you love – can be deeply hurtful to a child.
If ever you’ve thought, ‘It was only one time,’ or ‘I was only touched once,’ or ‘I don’t think I was really abused’ or ‘Compared to others, what happened to me was almost nothing,” we encourage you to ask yourself these three questions:
- “Is it possible that this uncomfortable experience affects me more than I realize?”Let’s say someone pushed you when you were a child, and your leg broke. But your doctor doesn’t set it right or performs surgery improperly. From that point on, you walk with a limp.
Even to the medically untrained or the naked eye, the cause-and-effect here is clear. However, the origins of psychological or emotional injuries are rarely so clear. If you’re like many people, you’ve wondered – even just one time – why you are or were addicted or depressed or suicidal or agoraphobic or anxious or feel isolated or inexplicably break out into sweats in certain situations. Most people are not sure of the answer.
Maybe it’s for reasons completely unrelated to what that one adult did to you that one time. But maybe it’s not.This is one reason we at Horowitz Law prod our clients and prospective clients to seek therapy. A trained professional can help determine whether your adult difficulties stem from other causes or childhood sexual trauma. An objective diagnosis is usually not a complete panacea. But it is a start. And just knowing why you are the way you are often brings a welcome clarity.)
- “Is it possible that this uncomfortable experience MAY LATER affect me more than it does now?” We at Horowitz Law have, over the years, heard from many abuse survivors who say things like, “I was doing fine until we moved back to my hometown where the incident happened” or “I thought this was all in the past until my daughter turned 13, the same age I was when he did that to me.” Like a germ in your body, even a one-time awkward, confusing, or slightly hurtful incident from long ago may eventually develop into a more pressing problem for you later in life.
- “Is it possible I don’t remember all he did to me right now?” Please keep an open mind here. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, a shocking percentage of victims of child sexual abuse initially recall only one or only a few of what, in reality, was a series of often-escalating violations. Years ago, few believed that such ‘repressed memories,” suppressed memories’ or ‘traumatic amnesia’ were possible. Fortunately, psychology research, clinical observations, and real-life experiences have gradually broadened our collective understanding of how kids process awful experiences. We as a society are increasingly accepting that, yes, children unconsciously or involuntarily block out or bury recall of horror that is so hurtful and confusing their minds are incapable of processing these experiences.Just like kids have no control over what their minds tamp down during trauma, adults usually have no control over when such traumatic memories resurface. They can hit you like a bolt out of the blue. No matter how confident you might feel, this could happen to you. We are not trying to frighten you. We’re just sharing what we know and what we’ve seen happen.
Finally, let us close with what will likely seem, at first, an almost laughable comparison. Think for a minute about your car.
You’re not a mechanic. Your car runs OK. There’s nothing visibly wrong with it. But sometimes, there’s a slight, unfamiliar noise. Most of the time, you don’t hear it. When you do hear it, it’s not loud. It doesn’t seem to affect the car’s performance.
Should you ignore it and hope it goes away? That’s one approach. Often, it’s a tempting one. After all, we lead busy and often demanding lives. Sometimes, it may feel like you’re just hanging on by your fingernails. And car repair can be expensive and inconvenient. The idea of having to deal with one more potentially hard problem, you fear, might just nudge you over the edge. On the other hand, however, a small voice in your head might be saying, “Don’t ignore this. It might get worse.”
So, too, with psychological or emotional matters. It could be nothing. It could be something. Or, in the worst-case scenario, it could be something bigger than you realize. If any of this rings even slightly true to you, other questions follow, including “Should I delve further into all this now?” and “Would it be smart for me to talk with someone who understands all of this now and now wait until I’m possibly in some kind of crisis later on?” and “Might I take some steps now to keep any or all of my legal options open in case things change for me down the road?”
Therapists are among those who understand this. So, too, do lawyers with long, successful track records in listening to people who’ve had even one troubling experience in childhood. Even the thought of talking with a therapist or an attorney can, like taking your car to the shop, feel a bit stressful. But a move like this may also prove to be a smart one for you. We hope you’ll take a small but brave step forward and give us a confidential call at Horowitz Law.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.