I was 16 yrs old when one of my male friends raped me. July 21st of 1997. I remember going into the police station in Evansville and as I sat in the room, the officer in front of me requested the clothes from evidence I had given. He gave me a yellow piece of notebook paper to write my statement on. Another uniformed man came in with my sack of clothes and handed them to the officer. Upon looking at the garments he said “No wonder you were raped, you asked for it,” he referred to my cut off teal tank top and regular blue jeans. This leads me to the topic of my presentation, child sexual abuse and its effects. Child sexual abuse, historically and presently, contains heavy emphasis on blaming the victim. This removes the blame from society and is present in the modern writing world.
“Child sexual abuse simply was not acknowledged prior to the late 1800’s,” (Bolen, 12). Historically, child abuse was seen as an imagination-orientated story. People who claimed to be abused, even children, were labeled hysteric. During the later part of the 1800’s Sigmund Freud researched the idea of child sexual abuse. He had patients that claimed to be sexually abused by family members and he wrote a theory called Theory of Seduction discussing his thoughts in attempts to help those labeled with hysterics. However, Freud’s’ peers disagreed with him and could not fathom the idea that Freud believed his patients and so they denied his research and would not allow it to publish.
Freud in reaction, went back over his research and found it faulty denying his belief in his patients and wrote a new paper that would, from that point in time to present day, change the social outlook on child sexual abuse. Freud’s new theory was called the Oedipus complex, “by blaming the victim, the social environment could then be held blameless,” which basically, is what every one knows as “penis envy” (Bolen, 19).
However, the reaches of his theory went far beyond a simple make up on paper, or just what society made acceptable “the researchers commented on the “clearly seductive style” (p.82) of one participant victim, a six year old girl who had been forced to masturbate her father since she was 2 yrs of age,” (Bolen, 28). It was clearly believed that a child could seduce an adult. The guilt and shock value of what all of this did impede on every victims conscience from late 1800 and forward. This new theory set the stage for every health provider, every family, and became the social standard until the 1970’s.
The 1970 has provided America with a great number of things: political awareness, some liberty of women, hippie culture, environmentalists, black hole theories, pocket calculators, microwave ovens, and finally self-awareness. Self-awareness came with the Feminists, which are who brought child sexual abuse back into the public eye. Only they did not question why it happened, but why it was not happening more by males. With self-awareness came self-help and interventions, which provided the realization that child sexual abuse happens and children need to be helped, only it did not change the social mentality of the abuse “some professionals continue to consider the victim partially culpable for the abuse,” (Bolen, 29). Medical providers and families still saw it as the victims fault. Child sexual abuse was a point of shame on the victim.
This social standard created by Freud and stuck to by the rest of the country has minimalized child sexual abuse and taken a taboo topic completely out of view until it recently had the breakthrough in the 1970’s. Despite the fact that child sexual abuse came into a forefront, it still remains a subject that leaves society guilt free and the victims very troubled. Children who have been sexually abused are not labeled as only those in poverty or less fortunate in life. The effects of this type of abuse is not only the victims to bare but also the parent of those who have been abused “all the women parenting sexually abused children self-identified as having been sexually abused in childhood,” (Tilly/Caye, 135).
Child sexual abuse reaches out past families, passed workers, and passed immigration; it reaches into the literary world. Child abuse arises among the very women many look up to who write fiction and poems. Women who are published in schoolbooks of anthologies. According to Nancy Tilly and Joanne Caye, “Writing fosters emotional depth and allows access to emotions not accessible otherwise ”(Tilly/Caye, 132).
There are numerous writers who have spoken on this topic, there are books published to this day on coping skills and methods for parents and others to try. However, to boil it down, being able to express the feelings and the acts itself are a great use to certain people. In a piece on Anne sexton and confessions Deryn Rees-Jones states, “The poem allows what the reader is forbidden: it puts into words the unspeakable, the unsayable” (Rees-Jones, 284). The written word can be a powerful tool in not only coping with child sexual abuse, but a way to show the world it still needs to be heard. This reinforces that society needs to look, needs to observe, and needs to read. Child sexual abuse is no longer dormant, as Freud had encouraged. It is not as taboo as it once was, change inevitably happens.
Virginia Woolf wrote a piece called “A sketch of the past” which shows some of the effects of child sexual abuse and emphasizes a clear thought on how it feels, “I can remember how I hoped that he would stop; how I stiffened and wriggled as his hand approached my private parts,” (Ideology and fiction-175). This quote intertwines what Freud touched briefly on before turning the tables and catches society by the jaw forcing people to look and shows how powerful an image writing can create for the reader. Change must come before this kind of abuse can be fixed after so long of denial. Even when the world does not want to acknowledge its presence. “Perhaps the most important effect of blaming mothers, daughters, or families, then, is that doing so colludes with our societal need to deny the scope of the problem of child sexual abuse,” (Bolen, 33). So far blaming the victim or the families has only given people the misconception of reality and caused a much greater grief in survivors, guilt.
Sources: Works cited
Bolen, Rebecca Morris. Child Sexual Abuse Its Scope and Our Failure. New York:
Kluwer Academic/Plenum, 2001. Print.
Dalgarno, Emily. "Ideology into Fiction: Virginia Woolf's "A Sketch of the Past""
(2010). Rpt. in 175-95. Web.
Rees-Jones, Deryn. ""Consorting with Angels: Anne Sexton and the Art of Confession."
Rev. of Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters. 283-84. Web. 28 Apr. 2010.
Tilly, Nancy, and Joanne Caye. "Using Writing and Poetry to Achieve Focus and Depthin a Group of Women Parenting Sexually Abused Children." Web. 28 Apr. 2010.