We have it all wrong. Shunning the offenders is not working. Locking them up is not working. Settling in court for massive sums of money is not working. Ruining the life of the offenders in the name of justice is not working. Leaving victims to pick up the pieces of their life alone is not working. The sexual abuse of our boys and girls is still going on, generation after generation.Kim Cottrell watched her sister suffer through incest and considers herself an incest survivor because everyone in the family felt the effects of it. Years later, when her father had a stroke, she brought him to her home to care for him, something we do not expect to happen in families like this.
She has her own ideas about how to help families heal.
I wonder if we could agree, the first goal is to stop the molestation and abuse of children. I used to think it was as simple as finding evidence, separating kids from their parents or abuser, and locking them up. Case closed. But when I was a speech pathologist in a large trauma hospital where I worked with babies and young children who’d been hit or shaken by adults, enough to cause brain damage, I saw a different side of the story. In many situations, removing the child from the parents caused further trauma. That’s when I realized it’s not so simple.Not so simple. Families who have been separated from the offender do not magically turn into happy families when the offender is gone. The offender was always more than what he did to harm the family. He may have been the breadwinner, the funny guy at breakfast, the one who taught the kids how to ride a bike, the one who took the kids fishing. When the offender is removed from the family, the man who plays Scrabble and teaches shoe-tying goes with him.
The current system--law enforcement, child protective services, the courts--behaves as if the child will be relieved that the offender is gone. Instead, in many cases, the child victim would be more relieved if the offending behavior stopped and the no-longer-offending family member were still in the home.
Second, and I don’t expect agreement but I believe this is crucial, we need to stop pursuing vengeance. We must lay down the judgment and shame game.Our capacity for forgiveness should be given more room.
For there to be any systemic, generational healing, we need to bring secrets out in the open. We need to stop banishing people, offenders or victims. We need to slow down enough to let the healing process take place. We need to support the healing process and let it be a normal part of life. There is clearly no evidence blaming, shaming, and shunning have anything to do with finding our way out of this crisis and the crisis our children are facing today.She is clear about responsibility but she is also clear about forgiveness and shame.
...the fact I’m caring for my father does not excuse his behavior. Nor is it my place to absolve him of responsibility for those he has hurt. What is true is that, together, he and I worked on our relationship and I no longer need his penance. Knowing he wakes up every single morning with the shame of destroying his family has taken away any taste I had for restitution.Caring for him when he still feels such shame about his life, that's mercy.