Features — 03 February 2018
SEXUAL ABUSE IS A CRIPPLING SOCIAL PROBLEM!

Last week January 24, 2018, I was working late in my office and to take a little break I was catching up on reading some international news, but kept seeing headlines about a doctor convicted and sentenced to 175 years in prison. I confess, I was not following up the previous news stories, so was clueless as to who was Dr. Larry Nassar, so I decided to read the story. What quickly got my attention is the profession… hmmm, a doctor? Someone in a profession of great respect… someone of great confidence… someone patients must trust… someone we look to “save” lives…  I must say my immediate prejudice of what a doctor embodies kicked in, so I was totally curious about what he could have done to deserve 175 years imprisonment… yes, 175 years in prison? Not even mass murderers get that kind of sentence, I thought.

Thus, I clicked on the link and began reading the news story and then as if I was hit by a tidal wave, I was flooded and forced to recollect my own memories of the violation I knew I suffered at the hands of my family doctor some 32 years ago. I always remembered the life-changing moment when it all happened. However, me, like most persons who have been sexually assaulted or abused, I tried to suppress that memory, and never tell or talk about it, because to recount it is to make it real and to make it real is to relive it over each time. One who has not experienced abuse would never understand the violation of your trust, the robbing of your childhood innocence that takes place and definitely they will never understand why there is a shame that comes over you that makes you question what you did to make this happen to you. The body releases more adrenaline and the brain goes into a certain over-drive mode and in some instances can go into a shock, that can trigger a serious denial as a means to cope!

But it is important to return the shame to the adult who did that to you… it’s important to break the silence and it is important to speak it out loud, even louder and to the loudest point, even if no one believes… because to do so is a relief… a healing.. a letting go and a gained freedom that liberates the mind in a way that others would not understand. Of course that is easier said than done as the brain is affected by any trauma. In order to share and speak openly about it, I have reproduced below my post that I wrote because I am no longer ashamed and I know I was just a child and did nothing to deserve to be sexually assaulted by my own doctor, a person I should trust and feel safe with…

My own doctor story….

“Reading about this Larry Nassar story jerked back memory to when I was about 12 years of age and had a pelvic pain so my mother took me to see the family doctor in Corozal to be examined, but as I laid on the examination table and the doctor had his back to my mother who was in the room but behind him, the doctor took his right hand, lifted my blouse and fondled my barely budding breast. He caressed it and gently pinched it and I felt so frightened to the point of becoming shocked and numb and he gave me a smile and winked and sadly my mother never saw what he did as the position where she stood, his body covered my upper body and I guess she believed he was just fully examining me, despite her not seeing close-up what he was doing. I have never told her, even now that I am 48 years old. It is still something I must live with, but I must hand him back his shame! You just never know what will jerk your memory, no matter how you try to forget it, down play it, tell yourself it could have been worse… but the very breach of your person, no matter its “magnitude” is the violation on you and an assault on your innocence as a child!

“I have never been able to take that image of his smirk out of my head, one reason being that he was also very much involved in the Scouting movement, of which I was a part of through being in the Girl Guides, and he was active in many community activities and he was the big brother of one of my classmates. He was a prominent fixture around Corozal Town, you know, being a medical doctor and respected as educated and back with his Guatemalan wife and coming from a “prominent” family… you know how paedophiles and predators do hide behind their prominence and position! Imagine how I felt, that even with my mother in the room I was not safe… and I couldn’t tell my mom because I felt the usual shock and shame that victims feel and so we don’t speak out. I felt, how could I tell my mom when she was also in the room and could not protect me? Would she believe me? Or did she see it and didn’t see anything wrong with it, despite me feeling wronged? Did I cause it? Was I too trusting of the doctor? I also felt that he was so liked, who would believe me over him? He was not a stranger; he was someone I liked and trusted in my child-like way, but I assure you after that, even if I felt ill, I never said a word and I never wanted to go to the doctor. As I got older and appreciated the extent of that violation against me and the fact that it was not done by a stranger, it became more painful… you see your childlike innocence then, somehow protects you… but you don’t remain a child forever… you learn about the world and you learn that you were right, he did do you a wrong!

“I wondered how many other females, especially little girls, he must have assaulted and if he got to go beyond the fondling of breast to actual sexual intercourse, especially as many poor and desperate patients no doubt consulted him. He eventually went into politics and won, but I avoided him all my life, but maybe I should pay him a visit and confront him, or publicly call him out and if he reads this he should call to make amends because there should be no more protecting of these predators. We as victims who survived and lived seemingly productive lives must speak out for the sake of the little girls looking up to us and who we can help to enlighten so that this and more does not happen to them!

“Now when I take my daughter to see a doctor, which is very few times, I am right up front and in the face of the doctor, because my child should never suffer the pains I did because I know better and I am stronger. Any girl or woman who tells me they were sexually assaulted or abused as a kid or teen I believe them and I don’t ask the stupid question, ‘Why didn’t you say anything?’ because to date I too never said anything! Until you become a victim of abuse, you will NEVER EVER appreciate the reason for the silence and the trauma that silences you!”  (posted 11:57pm 24th January, 2018)

Stay silent or break the silence!
It did not matter to me what the reaction would be and what others would say and even what the doctor would say or if there is threatened retribution,… it mattered that I felt strong, I felt bold and I felt free! I must say that the words of encouragement publicly posted by readers was welcomed and I am glad it opened up the conversation for many. There were those who made private contact to relate their own stories and indeed they are really horrible stories, really heart-breaking and really telling of the level of depravity of men… yes, men, because I have not yet been told of any sexual abuse suffered at the hands of a woman.

Then, as is expected there were those who said it is best I don’t make this known publicly because of what people will say about me and how they will respond to me and that they may even talk about me behind my back. Ha! To that I said, hell, even before this they talked behind my back, don’t know what gripes some may have, don’t even know what issues they have, but at this point I am not even concerned what people will say… I am concerned what I will say and so I said what I had to say about the perpetrator! But it is this very same attitude that is promoted thus causing victims to remain silent and it is this that perpetuates the continued violations of little girls and boys. It is this societal way of imposing the shame and blame on the child that teaches children to remain quiet. Imagine now as an adult there are those who would want to appeal to the inner scared child in me and ask me to fear what society would say, so I would opt to go into silence.  Sorry that can no longer work, especially since in my line of work throughout my various careers I have met and lived through the experiences of other women and have learnt a lot about the issues and have learnt that there is only one thing that must always be done – that is, break the silence! It is the silence of the victims that shields the ABUSER… because that is what they are!

Each time a mother does not know that a father, uncle, brother, cousin, friend, neighbour is molesting their child, they cannot protect that chid and others from that predator…. So it is our sacred duty to break that silence. Growing up in my time, these things were never spoken about and what was found, the child had to suffer the pain of remaining silent because of the “shame” she brings to the family.  But today we should freely and openly talk about abuse and teach our children about good touch and bad touch and stop making it taboo and blaming the girls and little boys… blame the nasty-ass perpetrator!

I lived in Guyana as a law student and met a classmate whose little sister had been brutally assaulted at age six by a neighbour, an old man, who lured her over with candies and so she went regularly… I will spare the details. However, I recount that story to say this: he, a law student, then told me that the family has come to terms that they would have to take care of her for the rest of her life as no man would want her and since the neighbourhood is small they suspect all know about it, but that they never reported it to the police because then there would be a public record of it and for sure all would know and that would be a shame on them. Plus they would not want to go to court. The damage to the child was permanent and I could tell you I saw how they instinctively treated her differently, as if she was not “normal”… It broke my heart!

That was sad, because they never stood up for her and they ascribed to her even more shame, which she did not deserve. This story, however, happens in Belize equally, it is not unique to any one country.  It may be more prevalent in some countries, societies and cultures, but it’s a reality young girls must face when they are robbed of their innocence and left voiceless and stripped of their dignity. Some of these girls grow up to be warriors, speaking out for others and fighting for others and bring change for other females because there must be someone to break the silence and crush the taboo! No matter how old you get, you NEVER forget and new traumatic life experiences can make it resurface and so you must deal with it.

She who has ears
All of you women who have ears to hear and to whom I am speaking and for whom I am speaking, I say call out your perpetrator, confront him if that will help, seek healing, you deserve to reclaim your dignity and peace of mind. So many have found their own healing through their church, work, family, community activities, but so many have sought to bury this secret deeper and deeper to the point that it consumes them… to you I say there can be healing if you can just muster the energy to at least tell someone, that is the first step…. Say it and accept it did happen… it is liberating!

Amazingly there are women who never told their experience to anyone, who have been diagnosed with all sorts of disorders and illnesses and even social dysfunctions, but I can assure you that for at least 90% at the root of all this, there is a childhood trauma of sexual abuse of some sort. I first broke my silence by saying it to my professional therapist and now I have written it and made it public so I can hand back the shame to the perpetrator. Shame on you, doctor, I was just a child, so I give you back your shame! To the little girls Larry Nassar abused, I say thanks for speaking out: it motivated me to likewise break the silence. Peace and Love!

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Deshawn Swasey

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