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iLove's avatar

Why do some communities (families, groups) cover up child abuse? How can we change this?

Asked by iLove (2339 points ) November 10th, 2011

I am in tears over the stories of child abuse at Penn State. If you are not into sports, here is a link to the overview article: Link

And, additionally a “timeline” of events: “Link”: and Link
(please be aware, this link contains graphic descriptions of child abuse)

This brought up emotions for me because I was sexually abused at age 5 by a mentally handicapped cousin in a small town. Bet you can’t guess what happened!

Yes, 31 years later – my father admits to me “I should have done more” but when he consulted with an older member of the “tribe”, he was advised not to do anything. WTF?

Why is child abuse such a hush-hush subject and why do people in certain groups continue to allow children to be violated in this way and then add this burden of responsibility of not punishing these criminals?

I am beyond angry that this has happened and I am speculating a lot of this case in the links above are a reflection of PRESTIGE and MONEY. In many cases, it’s just fear and ignorance. But the emotional suffering that children carry into adulthood is traumatic.

What do you think? What can we do?

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15 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I’m not an expert, but if I put myself in people’s shoes, I would imagine no one wants to cause an uproar or bring attention to themselves. The catholic church is the best example. Many people follow them and give them money, so why would they ruin their “infallible” reputation?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

In the case you mention, Penn State, they were covering up for the University and protecting their collective asses. You learn a member of your group is doing that to a kid and you ask him to turn in his keys so your college is covered? And now they’re trying to make it look better by firing Paterno and the president. The real answer is people need to grow a pair and decide what is right and what is wrong and act accordingly. Too fucking bad if you take some flak for exposing a pervert. You do not do that to kids and if you don’t have the balls to stand up and say it’s wrong you’re not much better than the perv.

marinelife's avatar

For many, the shame of having an abuser in their midst is too much.

It is wrong. When you suspect child abuse, including child sexual abuse, you should call the police.

The abused child, especially when the abuse has been swept under the rug, suffer horribly.

I feel for you. I know how the ripples go throughout you life and affect you in so many ways including your adulthood.

SuperMouse's avatar

It seems to me that it is all about reputation and saving face. Who is going to want to support this football team coached by a pedophile? If the powers that be admit that this guy is a pedophile it means they have to get rid of a perfectly good coach. These are people with incredibly misplaced priorities and an appalling lack of morals. I am disgusted with everyone involved, including the parents who did not press the issue for the sake of their own children and all of the others whose victimization might have been avoided.

In a case such as what happened in the Catholic church, it is so much easier to pretend there is nothing wrong than to admit that a huge part of the clergy is made up of pedophiles. Once they started covering it up and jockeying priests around to cover the problem it got easier. It got easier and the problem got bigger. Finally the problem was so big they were penned in by their lies, cover-ups and despicable behavior.

My condolences for what you have gone through, no child (ore person of any age) should ever be subjected to that. Ever.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

I wonder how long he’ll last in prison.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@SuperMouse Whoa! For the record Paterno is not the pedophile. Shut that down now!

JLeslie's avatar

Shame.

Shame and also protecting the abuser from criminal prosecution.

Denial might be a factor also. People want to “forget it ever happened.”

SuperMouse's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I know that Paterno is not a pedophile. This Sandusky character was one of the coaches of the Penn State football team was he not?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@SuperMouse Yes, He was for 30 years. Paterno moved the report of “some” wrongdoing up the line and yes he should have done more. No denying that. But Sandusky is the perv.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Mama_Cakes At least the other prisoners deliver a little payback to the perv. That’s a plus.

Judi's avatar

I remember when my mom found out that my brother in law had abused my little brother. She went into a sort of fog. Like she hadn’t even heard it. She even changed the subject. My mom was a good woman, but I don’t think her mind could handle the information. Later we found out that my sister (whose husband was the abuser) had been abused by my maternal grandfather. Surely my mother was abused too, but she really had no recollection at all of it.
The family secret was kept for so many stupid reasons. As a 10 year old child I was the only one screaming, “We have to tell!” I was not the victim and every victim said they would deny it if it came out.
When my niece was abused by my (other) sister’s boyfriend, finally, someone in our family stood up to the abuse. He got 10 years in prison and served them all.
Eventually the stories came out about my brother in law, to late to prosecute, but at least the secret was revealed.
The family dynamics over the subject are still pretty twisted, but I think we have set a healthier foundation for future generations. Putting this stuff under the light of day, hopefully is the best way to stop it in the future.

iLove's avatar

@Judi – thanks for your story. that was a very personal account. All of you, thanks for expressing my anger through your own words.

I, as a parent, will educate my daughter at an early age and make sure if ANYTHING ever happens to her – I will refrain from committing murder myself on the perpetrator, and hold back her father as well (weak laugh) and report it to the authorities IMMEDIATELY.

In my case, this happened to me again when I was 16 and the POLICE CAME TO MY HOUSE and I have an everlasting vision of both my parents denying that they believed I was a victim. ugh it disgusts me to even remember this

Please, for those of you who are parents – educate your children and don’t turn your back on this kind of thing. :”(

Nullo's avatar

Pride for some, fear for others. Image (“Hey, did you hear that Penn State rapes little boys?”) is a difficult beast to keep healthy. You’ll notice how the school is pushing to distance itself from the perpetrators.
gonna research me some medieval torture devices, brb

smilingheart1's avatar

The pedophile thing is HUGE. And most espcially stories of good ole’ Uncle Harry, although the prevalence among churches, sports clubs, artful disciplines is emerging these last several years. I can tell you that when I told my mother at about age 11 she didn’t want to hear it. She did not want to hear it many years later when once more I approached the topic. By this time my younger brother had chimed in that he too had been victimized.

I think the reasons have been well cited in the responses from others and I can only add that it is a monstrosity and atrocity that has huge tentacles.

In my own case I noticed something odd though as I became older and by consent entered into deliberate relationship. I found that the stimulators that were forced on me as a child were the very things that I found errotic when I fell in love.

I am asking a question respectively and sensitively as I respond: Do you think that if you were molested by a same gender elder as a child that you could become of lesbian or homosexula persuasion in that manner?

Aethelflaed's avatar

I think this post is really good. I actually am much more comfortable calling many of the things mentioned in that post “abuse” than the author, and I think that the author really downplays how fucked up a lot of that shit really is (even though the A Child Called It stuff is even more fucked up), but in and of itself represents a problem within the abuse community: how do you label things that aren’t some of the worst we can imagine? When people say “I was abused”, most people hear that to mean “someone went all Casey Anthony on me” or “my dad once made me get naked and climb in a heated oven, and that’s why I’m now so physically deformed”. They don’t hear “my mother never hit me, she just screamed at me every day how I was to blame for her unhappiness”. It’s actually much like the issue of, how do you recognize how horrible it is that in some massacre there were 13 innocent lives lost, when the Holocaust wiped out several million? But I would like to highlight the following paragraph, because it’s dead on:

It’s also something bystanders will encourage, because they don’t want to have to deal with what it would mean if you had been For Real Big Deal abused. Cops downplay because they don’t want to make an entire investigation into something that probably wouldn’t lead to a conviction anyway. Social services downplay because putting a kid in foster care or adult in a shelter is expensive and difficult and often causes huge damage in its own right. Friends downplay because they don’t want to have to confront the abuser or live with the knowledge that they’re ignoring abuse. Fellow survivors downplay because they’re downplaying their own experiences. And everyone downplays just because they don’t want to live in the kind of world where abuse is happening right in front of them, in their own town, among nice folks who mow their lawn and volunteer at the PTA bake sale, and there’s absolutely nothing they can do about it.

I think that last sentence is really the crux of the matter. People don’t want to hear that they know someone who abuses. They don’t want to hear that they have, at one time or another, probably seen signs, hints, and even red flags, and they ignored them, they rationalized it, they figured it wasn’t really that bad, and they figured that they were actually the bad one for leaping to all these horrible conclusions about people. And part of this is because everyone is so powerless in the face of abuse. Let’s say my classmate seems like the type of person who’s abusing someone – maybe a kid, maybe a friend, maybe a s/o, someone. But, I don’t actually know of any one, specific relationship where said classmate is acting in an abusive manner. How am I supposed to confront this problem, and change it? I’ve got nothing real to report other than a hunch. You can’t really talk abusers out of abusing – they have to want to change (same as with all other changes to the self), and at the very least, if you could, it’d require several years of slowly getting them to trust me and listen to me, and not one talk over a hot cuppa tea like in “very special” sitcom episodes. And how am I supposed to reconcile with myself that I’ve let it go on this long – this is, after all, someone I sat next to, engaged in dialogue over the material, and maybe even went out for drinks with a couple times. How am I supposed to tell other people (not to mention myself) that I actually had a great time grabbing PBRs with an abuser? Isn’t it really just so much simpler, so much less messy, so much easier, if I just say that this classmate is just a bit eccentric, and not abusive?

Another part is that I think we actually make child molesters out to be too bad. Not that they aren’t bad, and I’m not trying to say that they are, but I think it goes over to the point where we don’t see them as human anymore. And then because we don’t see them as human, we see them as more some crazy mythical monster that lives in the woods, and that we could easily recognize upon sight, than someone who lives down the street and looks normal and smiles and waves and helps you with your groceries and has other sides to their being and identity than “rapes kids”. So it creates a certain “not my Harold” environment.

There are, of course, many different parts playing into the whole thing (nothing is ever straightforward). Like how we have a culture (especially within certain sub-cultures) that emphasizes the rightness of authority; to question authority is often considered a serious issue itself, to accuse authority of abuse an outright social crime. Look at how people who question authority are looked at as unpatriotic, as brats, as hooligans, as smartmouths and backtalkers and ‘giving sass and lip’, as uppity, and my personal favorite, as entitled. Since it’s so often authority doing the abusing (part of why they get into positions of authority), especially with child abuse, it creates an environment in which you can’t ever say something because it just makes it worse. We have a culture that, in so many ways, actively punishes people who even acknowledge that abuse is a real, live, everyday thing, that it is a part of the world we live in.

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